Montana Public Radio

Helping Kids Deal With Allergies: Dr. Starbuck Explains

May 1, 2017

Hi!  I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck, a naturopathic family physician.  I’m here today with health tips on: allergies. Ah-choo!  Ah-choo!

It’s spring and it’s allergy season.  Do you know what an allergy is? It’s when something irritates your body and causes a physical reaction.  When you breathe in something you’re allergic to, you get watery eyes, a snuffly nose, lots of sneezing, and sometimes the feeling that all you want to do is sleep.

Here are some tips to help kids deal with spring allergy season.
Credit Flickr user Sherif Salamar (CC-BY)

It’s strange, but people with allergies react to things that people without allergies don’t even notice.  If you have allergies, you can play outside with a friend, and be blowing your nose and sneezing and rubbing your eyes, while your friend feels perfectly fine and wonders why you don’t.  It’s not quite fair. 

Springtime is the most common season for allergies because there’s a lot going on in spring.  Think about it.  In winter, nature is pretty quiet.  Snow covers the ground.  All the flowers and leaves are gone; bushes and trees are bare. 

When spring arrives, the snow melts.  Dirt and grass are exposed, buds open, flowers bloom, adults start lighting up their burn piles and farmers burn their fields.  Pretty soon there are a whole bunch of new things added to our air, and some people are allergic to those new things. 

One of them is pollen, that powdery dusty yellow stuff that comes out of trees and flowers and covers picnic tables, and cars, and other flat surfaces outdoors every spring.  Or how about cottonwood trees?  Every spring cottonwood seeds start to fly through the air, carried along by white fluffy, cottony fibers.  It looks like it’s snowing!   The cottonwood fluff even piles up on the ground like snow.  It’s pretty amazing, and kind of beautiful, but if you’re allergic, it’s no fun at all. 

Kids can also be allergic to dust and smoke and even dandelions!

So what are we supposed to do about allergies?  We can’t avoid breathing the air!  We can’t prevent spring from coming or flowers from blooming.

If you have allergies, your parents will probably take you to the doctor and get medicine to help.  I recommend you also do things to make your immune system stronger, so you’ll feel better and won’t react as much.  Here’s how you do that:

Eat foods that have lots of beta carotene.  Beta carotene helps strengthen the cells of your eyes and nose and throat and lungs.  You get beta carotene in orange and red foods – eating carrots and beets and tomato soup and squash and cantaloupe is very good for allergies.

You also should eat food with quercetin, that’s spelled Q-U-E-R-C-E-T-I-N. Quercetin helps with the runny nose and watery eyes that are caused by allergies.  You get quercetin in red and purple foods – cranberries, plums, blackberries and cherries;.  Quercetin is also in green foods – like spinach and chard and kale, and in fresh, whole oranges.

If you have allergies, eat lots of red and yellow and green and purple food every day.  And of course I mean naturally colored food, not dyed!

A third thing that’s great for allergies is a neti pot.  It’s a little pot that you put salt water into, and then pour the water up one side of your nose.  The water will come out the other side of your nose washing out all those allergic particles you’ve breathed in, and will wash out any mucus or gunky stuff that’s also stuck in your nose.

You’ll have to ask you parents to teach you how to use it.  Once you learn, you can rinse out your nose out every night before you go to bed during allergy season.  It can be part of your routine, just like brushing your teeth.

If you’ve got allergies, don’t skip on sleep.  Allergies are stressful, so your body needs extra rest.  Try to get one more hour than you usually do during allergy season.

As I always suggest, drink lots of water.  Water keeps your eyes and throat moist and helps your brain and blood fight allergies.

I hope you have a happy, healthy and not very allergic spring this year.  I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck and I’m wishing you well.