What is hayfever?
Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, is commonly associated with the sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes and nose, and congestion that comes with seasonal allergies.
Hay fever is an inflammatory condition that involves an allergic reaction to air-borne allergens. Depending on what your child is reacting to will determine if their symptoms are seasonal or all-year round.
What causes hayfever?
Seasonal allergies can be due to pollens, grasses and plants in bloom.
All-year allergies can be due to dust mites, insect and animal dander, and mould.
When and where a child is reactive can give us an idea of what may be triggering their symptoms. But…. it starts to get a bit tricky when there is more than one trigger and they seem to be reacting all the time.
What is triggering my child’s hayfever?
This is where testing can go a long way.
The only way to know for sure what their triggers are is to do a special test called a skin-prick test. This involves exposing your child’s skin (on their forearm or back) to several known allergens and seeing if a wheal-and-flare response appears.
There is also a blood test called a RAST (Radioallergosorbent) test which detects IgE antibodies in your blood specific to common allergens.
The beauty of such tests is that they give us a clear idea of what we need to avoid to help manage symptoms and decrease that inflammation so that we can work on calming the immune system and ideally reduce the allergic tendencies.
Pharmaceutical management of hayfever
Hay fever is typically managed with hayfever tablets, called antihistamines. There are also steroids and decongestants available. Whilst these are all helpful in relieving symptoms that do not address the underlying cause of the allergy nor support the immune system to be better prepared to combat and resolve the aberrant response.
Allergen immunotherapy is another option some people decide to commit to, especially if their child has bad hayfever. It is a long-term treatment, usually 3-5 years, that works by increasing your child’s immune tolerance to the allergen.
What can I do at home for hayfever?
Since a hay fever is one that involves an aberrant immune response to a normally harmless substance in the environment, natural medicine recognises the importance of calming this immune response and supporting your immune system’s ability to regulate itself and be less reactive to air-borne allergens.
Remember, the best hayfever treatment is strict avoidance of the allergen.
Vitamin C, quercetin, zinc, vitamin D and mushrooms are the top nutrients we can fill our diets with to keep on top of hay fever.
Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine and important antioxidant. Antioxidants are vital in keeping on top of the inflammation caused by histamine and the immune response. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus, kiwi fruit, mangoes, raspberries, blackcurrants, Kakadu plum, guava, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, bok choy, kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts) and rosehip tea.
Quercetin is a natural plant polyphenol, rich in antioxidants, that has known anti-allergic benefits. Quercetin, like vitamin C, helps prevent the production of histamine and other immune chemicals involved in the inflammation associated with allergies. Quercetin is also involved in calming the immune system and improving its ability to be less reactive to harmless antigens in the environment. Quercetin is naturally found in foods such as red onion, asparagus and berries as well as shallots, kale, red apples, cherries, citrus, cruciferous vegetables, capsicum, buckwheat, black tea, green tea and elderberry tea.
Zinc is an important mineral in stabilising the immune cells that release histamine, the mast cells. Zinc also plays a major role in supporting the immune system by keeping it in balance and preventing allergic conditions. Foods rich in zinc include red meat, oysters, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds,
Vitamin D and medicinal mushrooms support immune regulation so that we can retrain our immune system to respond appropriately and develop allergen tolerance. Vitamin D is most effectively made by exposing ourselves safely to the sun. It is available in some foods such as mushrooms, salmon and cod liver oil. You can ‘re-charge’ the vitamin D levels in your mushrooms that have been sitting in the dark fridge by sitting them in some sunshine 15 minutes before cooking.
Medicinal mushrooms, such as Shiitake and Reishi, are great at regulating the immune system and supporting the barrier function of the airways. It be added to a cacao drink for after school or before bed. Look for an organic brand that contains at least Reishi and Shiitake. Evolution botanical mushrooms from a health food store is one recommendation.
- Use an air purifier at home
- Use the exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen to minimise room humidity and mould growth
- Commit to a daily nasal irrigation with a saline solution to help flush away any allergens in the nasal passages
- Strategies to minimise dust mites and cockroach dander- clean and vacuum regularly when child is not home, wash bedding in very hot water, invest in dust mite resistant mattress and pillow protectors, avoid soft furnishings such as cushions and soft toys, minimise carpets, rugs and curtains
- Strategies to minimise pollen exposure- keep windows closed on windy days, brush down pets before coming indoors, shower after being outside, keep lawn short to prevent grass pollen emerging
Need more help for your child’s hayfever?
If you are looking for more support to boost your child’s immune system and reduce the severity of their hay fever, book an appointment today.