Have allergies hit your neighborhood yet? Snow is receding for many of us and that means… pollen – and a tough time for many kids. Fall or spring, when allergies hit, several natural tools work well. Put these naturopathic supports in your toolbox to alleviate allergy symptoms. These can work gently and quickly to ease sneezing, runny nose, weeping stinging eyes, or congestion, without some of the side effects some children have from drugs like Benadryl or Claritin. Somnolence (too sleepy), hyperactivity, or insomnia are common unwanted effects from these drugs. The right prescription drug can literally be a life saver too, especially for asthmatic kids during this challenging time of year. Be sure to follow your physician’s instructions, and don’t mix herbs or supplements with medicines unless your pharmacist or physician says it’s okay.
Non- inflammatory diet – Avoid trigger foods that exacerbate inflammatory reactions. If your child has rashes or eczema that come and go, hives, wheezing, or asthma, test for food reactions, not just inhaled allergens. Test both allergy (IgE) and sensitivity (IgG). Avoiding trigger foods can markedly improve respiratory and skin symptoms. This testing is a routine part of my pediatric nutrition practice. Sugary processed foods and processed fats also worsen inflammation in the body, so minimize those by replacing them with whole foods and healthy fat sources (fish oils, avocado, organic eggs or meats, organic nuts and seeds, flax meal, olive oil).
Quercetin – This is one of many flavonoids, which are phenolic compounds found in many plants, including herbs, teas, fruits, vegetables, roots, and wine. Quercetin has broad anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It is not an anti-histamine, but it does inhibit enzymes that start inflammatory cascades in cells. You’ll find lots of quercetin in onions, raw apples, berries, and broccoli. It is widely available as a supplement in capsules or in chewable blends for kids. Quercetin can protect against damage caused in tissues and cells by swelling and inflammation. It can also chelate iron. If your child has low iron or anemia, use this with professional supervision. If your child has iron overload, quercetin may help. Otherwise, usual doses are 250-500 mg daily for school aged kids.
Fenugreek – Like quercetin, fenugreek has strong anti-oxidant and free-radical-scavenging power, meaning it will help cells avoid damage from reactive oxygen species that wreak havoc in the body when inflammation from allergies is high. It has a long history in traditional medicine across many cultures, and has been used in breastfeeding to increase milk supply. For seasonal allergies, its astringent properties may help drain inflammation in sinuses and lungs, and break apart mucus trapped in those spaces. Available in tinctures or capsules; my preferred encapsulated brand is from Medi-Herb. Antronex from Standard Process is another favorite of mine for easing sinus drainage and phlegm; it contains fenugreek, comes as a small, slippery, easy to swallow tablet, and can be safely dosed up to several daily as needed til symptoms improve.
Butterbur – This herb showed itself to be as effective as Allegra in a clinical trial for hay fever. The same outcome occurred in another trial that compared butterbur to Zyrtec. And again when butterbur was tested against placebo. No side effects were noted in these trials. So, it works – but can your child use it? It hasn’t been tested in children for allergies as far as I could find, but it has been tested in children for migraines, with no toxicity or ill effects observed. This makes it a possible winner for kids who need allergy relief but get too drowsy or activated with the usual over the counter drugs. Dosage tested in children was 50-150 mg daily for four months.
Probiotics – The good news on probiotics just won’t quit. Taking probiotics helps reduce upper respiratory infections and inflammation, and can reduce seasonal allergy symptoms like rhinitis (runny nose!). Make them a routine part of your child’s daily food and supplement plan. Lactobacillus strains that have been proven effective at reducing allergic symptoms in sinuses are L. paracasei, L. acidophilus, and L. salivarius. Bifido species were helpful too. These strains can be found at relevant potencies in better probiotics, such as from Klaire, VSL, Custom Probiotics, or Kirkman Labs. Don’t expect them to be cheap, and keep them refrigerated. Chewable probiotics sitting on your supermarket shelves are of virtually no value – the potency is dubious, and too low in any case; and, there are unnecessary fillers that may have more allergens. Buy the good stuff. My clients can do that here at 10% off – let me help you pick one. Ask for regular (not chilled pack) shipping to save a bundle and immediately store in refrigerator on arrival.
Nettles – Nettle is another somewhat miraculous herb. It has anti-histamine power, and inhibits mast cells, which are another key component of allergic reactions. Like quercetin, it also interrupts enzymes in cells that trip inflammatory cascades. It seems to most relieve itching and sneezing. It’s available as dried leaves which can be steeped as tea, which many kids will be agreeable to sip if they aren’t feeling well. It’s also widely available in capsules, chewables, or tinctures. 100-300 mg daily for children is a usual dose.
Vitamin C – Years ago, researchers found that a 2 gram (2000 milligram) dose of Vitamin C lowered histamine in test subjects by nearly 40%. It actually interrupts histamine formation in the first place. Two grams is an ordinary dose that you may have used before during colds or flu. Vitamin C is a natural laxative too. For some kids, this dose may loosen bowels (perhaps a desired effect, if your child has constipation). Start at about 100 mg and work up slowly, to make sure you don’t trigger diarrhea. Taking this with bioflavonoids makes C even more effective.
Curcumin / Turmeric – Check my blog post on how to easily eat more of this potent anti-inflammatory herb. Though results on how well it works for asthma have been mixed, researchers have found that it inhibits mast cell response, which means it may have anti-allergy effects.
Measles Infection – Has your child had measles infection? There is an up side: Getting actual measles has shown a lifelong protective effect against allergic diseases (and certain cancers!). If your child contracts measles, be sure to support them nutritionally, as this can give them an easier, uncomplicated course of infection. Check my post on how to do that here.
Homeopathics – A number of homeopathic remedies in 12c or 30c potencies (available at many health food stores) can quickly alleviate allergy symptoms. These are used by placing 3-5 pellets under the tongue in an empty mouth, away from foods or fluids. Let them dissolve. If no change in symptoms, the dose can be repeated in 30 to 40 minutes for 12c potency pellets; or 45 minutes to every two hours for 30 c potency pellets. When the correct remedy is used, a clear response occurs. When it does, stop – more is not better. If a partial improvement occurs with a relapse into worsening symptoms, then you’re likely on the right track and another dose is indicated. If no improvement occurs, you’ve chosen the wrong remedy. Euphrasia, Sabadilla, and Allium Cepa are common choices for allergy season. A helpful blog on this can be found here.
There are so many options to help your kids feel better during allergy season, and they don’t all have to be pharmaceutical ones. If your child does well with those – celebrate! If they struggle with side effects or only partial improvement, natural supports may work better. This is a short list. There are many more options that skilled providers have at their fingertips. If you aren’t sure where to start, consider a product for children like D-Hist Junior chewables (10% off to my clients and followers). It has a blend of some of the items mentioned here, and may be a helpful add on to medications if your doctor gives it a thumbs up.