Surviving Seasonal Allergies #TeachMeTuesday
With the arrival of spring, the sun starts to shine, trees and flowers begin to bloom, and many people start to sneeze. Seasonal allergies impact many Canadians and symptoms can include runny noses, congestion and watery eyes – just to name a few.
In our last column, Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Shelly Reitkop gave us the lowdown on food sensitivities for food allergy awareness month. This Tuesday, she is back to share her expert advice and answer our questions on seasonal allergies.
Here are five common questions on the minds of parents:
- What’s the most common time of the year for allergies?
April and May seem to be the most common time for allergies but many people – children and adults alike – experience symptoms throughout the whole year or at different times of the year. Allergens change with the season so it’s important to know what specific triggers cause allergic symptoms. In the spring and summer, people are most vulnerable to tree pollen, ragweed and grass allergies, as well as dust mites, pet dander and moulds. Tree pollen can start affecting people anytime between March to early June, while grass allergens appear between mid-May and mid-July. As grass allergens taper off, mould allergens increase, both outdoors and indoors. Ragweed allergens are common between mid-August and the first frost, which is typically around October.
- How do I know if my child is experiencing allergies? What are the differences between allergic symptoms and symptoms of a cold or flu?
Allergic symptoms may first be mistaken for a cold but if symptoms persist for more than 10 days, you definitely want to rule out allergies. If your child has a cold, he or she will likely feel tired and complain of a sore throat, headache and body aches. Your child may have a fever and be coughing or blowing out yellow-green mucus from his or her nose. Allergic symptoms typically include sneezing, runny nose with clear mucus, itchy ears, nose, throat and/or eyes and tearing. Coughing is a possible symptom, especially is there is a history of asthma. Allergic symptoms and cold/flu symptoms may coexist at any one time but the key with allergies is that they are persistent. Allergies often appear during infancy or childhood but many people develop allergies as adults. Evidence does suggest that uncontrolled allergies may predispose individuals to frequent infections, especially sinus infections.
- What are the most common allergic signs or symptoms that children experience?
Allergic symptoms range from skin rashes and hives to itchy, watery eyes, stuffy nose and sneezing. If the allergic symptoms are seasonal, it’s likely that your child is allergic to tree pollen, grass, ragweed, or moulds or a combination of these. If the allergies are persistent throughout the year, moulds may be the underlying cause and further investigation is required. Food allergies and intolerances may also result in persistent allergic symptoms such as chronic nasal congestion, runny nose and post-nasal drip. If your child comes into contact with certain chemicals, detergents, soaps, foods or plants (such as poison ivy), a rash will likely develop. This is known as contact dermatitis and identifying the source is essential.
- Do adults and kids experience different allergies and allergic symptoms?
While both children and adults may experience allergies, symptoms do vary. Generally, most allergic reactions in the first two years of life are the result of food allergens and sensitivities. Inhalants and dander become more apparent at the age of two and after infancy, pollens and moulds start to cause clinical manifestations. In childhood, eczema is the most common allergic reaction. Over half of the infants who experience moderate-to-severe eczema develop respiratory allergies and allergy-induced asthma. These kids are likely to develop symptoms of hay fever (itchy eyes, watery eyes) with or without a runny nose as adults. There are some cases where infancy eczema disappears completely without the subsequent development of respiratory allergies. Adults who suffer from eczema typically suffer from more chronic manifestations and deeper underlying causes, which require further investigation.
- How do we naturally prevent allergies?
The best thing you can do to prevent allergies is to ensure your child’s digestive system and immune system are functioning optimally. As 80% of the immune system lines the digestive tract, an impairment in one can lead to an impairment in the other. In children with allergies or adults with chronic allergies or eczema, it is essential to rule out food allergies and sensitivities. Older kids and adults should get tested for food allergies and sensitivities, inhalants, moulds, pet dander and other common chemicals.
Once you know the specific allergic trigger, you can prevent accordingly. If the source of the allergen is an indoor mould or chemical invest in an air purifier or dehumidifier and eliminate exposure. If the trigger comes from the outside environment, building the immune system is essential. Some easy ways to prevent allergies is to make sure your child gets enough nutrients from fruits and vegetables. Foods such as sweet peppers, leafy greens, broccoli, onions, pineapple, and berries are high in vitamin C, bromelain and quercetin and are highly effective in preventing and treating allergies. Studies show that probiotics and fish oil supplementation is also helpful in minimizing allergic symptoms. Since sugar consumption reduces immune functioning for up to 5 hours, it is also important to reduce or avoid refined sugar and sweeteners.
If allergies are a main for your child concern, consider seeing a Naturopathic Doctor who can develop a comprehensive treatment plan to prevent and treat symptoms.
Joanne Sallay is a Director at Teachers on Call, a personalized home tutoring service with more than 25 years of experience. Teachers on Call’s Ontario Certified Teachers specialize in providing one-on-one instruction in all subjects and grades including French Immersion tutoring. For further information about Teachers on Call, please visit: www.teachersoncall.ca
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