Question: My eight-year old daughter is struggling with seasonal allergies. Are there any natural approaches we can use to help her feel better? Claire S. from Hampton, Va.
Dr. Amy: Many of my patients have been calling wondering what to do this allergy season. Depending on where you live and what’s blooming when, seasonal allergies can start in early spring and go well through the fall.
The first important step is to limit exposure to allergens. This does not mean closing your child indoors all spring and summer. When she comes in from being outdoors, encourage her to change into house clothes. And definitely leave all shoes at the door. In an allergy sensitive person, the dust and the pollen brought indoors can aggravate symptoms.
Ask your daughter to shower at night, especially washing her hair, which removes pollen that easily sticks to body surfaces. Similarly, if possible, use an air purifier in the bedroom and other rooms where most of her time is spent. Wash clothes and sheets frequently, but do not line dry outdoors. Sadly, line-drying your clothes or sheets is not a great idea as wet fabric acts as the perfect magnet for pollen.
Histamine Response to Seasonal Allergies
When a person is allergic, there is a histamine response, causing everything from runny nose, itchy eyes and redness, as well as a sore throat. The immune system is responding to a perceived threat of an “enemy,” in this case, pollen. In our blood system, histamine travels in the mast cells.
A number of supplements have proven to be helpful and are well-tolerated in children to help stabilize the mast cell membranes so they release less histamine:
● Vitamin C and bioflavonoids like quercetin act as natural antihistamines and are also anti-inflammatory.
● Bromelain, an enzyme derived from pineapple, can also be useful. It helps thin mucus and reduces overall inflammation.
● Fish oil helps balance immune system function so that your daughter might become less allergic over time.
● Probiotics help to create a more diverse microbiome which in turn helps to balance immune function. Eating and drinking foods that are fermented or cultured is also helpful. This may help your daughter create a more robust microbiome, which impacts immune and allergy response, but also aids in proper digestion, in mental clarity and mood support.
Dietary Changes to Reduce Risk
Dietary changes should also be considered. A teaspoon a day of local honey may help reduce sensitivity to pollen. If your daughter is sensitive to dairy, gluten, eggs or other foods, please limit consumption especially during allergy season. For many people there is an “allergic load” phenomenon, where the body can take just so much assault. If you reduce some foods you think your daughter might be sensitive to, you may well find that she is less sensitive to others exposures like as pollen, which is harder to control.
Some of my patients love using essential oils with their kids to help with allergy symptoms. Some of the best ones are lavender to reduce itching and irritability and lemon balm to reduce a runny nose.
I also often prescribe homeopathy remedies with allergic children. I choose the homeopathic remedy based on how the child experiences the allergy in the context of the rest of their overall health and temperament.
I recommend that you work with a licensed naturopathic doctor to help create an individualized and specific plan of action for your child. There is an important lesson in this too. As your child learns about how her body works, she will better understand how her choices impact how she feels. A health-empowered child will make good decisions for life. In this time of pandemic isolation, many ND now offer appointments by telemedicine.
This article is sponsored by the Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, partnered with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing health care systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:
- Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of naturopathic medicine
- Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
- Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine
Secor ER Jr, Singh A, Guernsey LA, et al. Bromelain treatment reduces CD25 expression on activated CD4+ T cells in vitro. Int Immunopharmacol. 2009;9(3):340-346. doi:10.1016/j.intimp.2008.12.012
Braun JM, Schneider B, Beuth HJ. Therapeutic use, efficiency and safety of the proteolytic pineapple enzyme Bromelain-POS in children with acute sinusitis in Germany. In Vivo. 2005;19(2):417-421
Thornhill SM, Kelly AM. Natural treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis. Altern Med Rev. 2000;5(5):448-454.
Dr. Rothenberg is a contributor to INM and practicing licensed naturopathic doctor in Northampton, Massachusetts. Dr. Rothenberg is the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians 2017 Physician of the Year. Dr. Rothenberg's writing can be found on NaturalMed.org, Better Nutrition's Naturopathic Health Hub, Medium, Thrive Global, and The Huff Post. She is the proud mother of 3 adult children.