Allergies are tough to take as an adult, yet they're somehow worse when it's your own child with a stuffy nose and red, itchy eyes. In order to reduce her discomfort, a trip to the pediatrician and then perhaps to a physician who specializes in treating allergies is smart. But because the ability to fight nasal allergies is linked to the strength of the immune system, trying a couple of home remedies could also help ease her suffering.
"Any foods that produce natural and high quantities of vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, antioxidants, and other helpful vitamins and minerals can boost the immune system and are good choices for fighting nasal allergies," explains Chitra Dinakar, M.D., an allergist at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO. Check out the following home remedies, including fruits, vegetables, and other pantry items that can fight your tot's nasal allergies and help her breathe more freely.
Blueberries and raspberries contain vitamin C and flavanoids, which may mitigate some of the histamine response for allergies in children, according to Jack Maypole, M.D., pediatrician, associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine, and Educational Advisory Board Member of The Goddard School. "While organic is best, well-washed conventionally grown versions of these fruits are a great and healthy addition," he says. Elena Klimenko, M.D., a specialist in integrative medicine in New York City, agrees. "Try a serving of 3/4 cup once or twice a day, "she suggests. Mash ripe berries well for tots who are still learning to handle solids.
These shiny orbs also have vitamin C and flavanoids, including quercetin, which can act as a mast cell stabilizing agent. "Mast cells are important mediators of allergy because they release histamine," explains Corinna Bowser, M.D., an allergist at Narberth Allergy and Asthma in Narberth, Pennsylvania. Because chunks of raw fruit can be a choking hazard for kids younger than 4, it's best to peel and grate apples when serving. You could also bake them at 400 degrees F until softened.
The antioxidant quercetin is also found in this veggie, though you may find onions to be a tougher sell to your kid. If that's the case, this bulbous root, also known as allium cepa, can be consumed in pellet form, says Klimenko. It's safe for kids over 2 years of age (follow the instructions on the package).
This sweet treat gets mixed reviews when it comes to easing nasal allergies, but it may be worth a shot. "The thought behind it is that bees collect pollen and pollen is behind allergies, so if you eat honey regularly the body might get used to the allergen and not make the [allergy] response," says Dr. Bowser. The problem with this theory is that the pollen that causes allergic rhinitis, asthma, and allergic conjunctivitis is only from wind-pollinated plants, and honey dones't contain a significant amount of pollen allergen—it's mainly a sugar and allergens are mostly proteins. But Dr. Klimenko recommends local bee pollen. "Buy it seasonally and start with one to two granules, working up to a teaspoon a day," she notes. But don't give honey to a baby under 1 year because of the risk of infant botulism, a serious gastrointestinal condition.
Apple cider vinegar is an age-old immune-boosting, allergy-fighting probiotic remedy used for a variety of ailments, says Dr. Maypole. "Dosage recommendations vary, but usually the suggestion is a teaspoon to a tablespoon in 8 ounces of water.
If your child will try them, dishes made with cayenne pepper, fresh ginger, and fenugreek, as well as onions and garlic, may help thin mucus and open up nasal passages. "The capsaicin found in spicy foods, including red peppers, may work by desensitizing nasal nerve fibers," says Dr. Bowser.
Does your child have itchy eyes due to nasal allergies? Try a cold compress, which can help reduce the itch and soreness. Also, remind your kids to avoid rubbing their eyes—this only makes itching and irritation worse.
Yup, plain ol' H2O can work wonders. Older children might want to try nasal irrigation using a saline solution, either from the drugstore or homemade (mix 8 ounces of water with a teaspoon of non-iodized salt). Drinking enough each day is important too—blowing and sneezing can dry your kid out. And finally, the steam in a warm shower or bath may help to clear out her stuffy nose.