If you are the parent of a child who suffers from allergies, eczema or asthma, you look for ways to bring relief and comfort to your son or daughter — but you want natural, better alternatives to antihistamines, skin-altering cortisone creams, chemical inhalers, or even nasal rinses (the latter could be too much to expect a young child to be able to do, in any case).
Thankfully, there are many natural, hands-on, more pleasant remedies that you can try for your child.
Because different things work for different people, you might try several remedies, before you find one or more that work for your child. But before trying any of these remedies, be sure to discuss it with your child’s doctor, as even natural medicines carry risks of allergic reaction for some individuals. You can try the below remedies while continuing to use your doctor-prescribed treatments; if you use natural medicines that work for your child, you may be able to reduce or even eliminate the need for synthetic pharmaceuticals.
Preventing Allergy Symptoms, Including Eczema and Asthma
As with disease in general, prevention is the wisest approach of all, when it is possible. Get to know your child’s allergy triggers.
If your child gets nasal allergies from pollens, or asthma attacks from the particulates in air pollution, limit the child’s time spent outside when pollen counts are high or when pollution is visible in the city where you live. If your city is persistently polluted, consider moving to a city with cleaner air.
If your son or daughter reacts to other allergens such as pet dander, dust, fragrances or insect bites, take smart steps, such as the following:
- Avoid contact between the child and the animal that produces symptoms, and / or bathe pet often
- Remove household dust with frequent dusting, sweeping, mopping and vacuuming
- Avoid using harsh chemical cleansers around the home
- Avoid strong artificial scents
- Your child should wear sunglasses (or prescription glasses or eyeware of some type) when outside on a dry day during pollen season or when it’s smoggy, as many allergens can get into the body through the eyes
- Cover fabric-upholstered sofas with washable covers that can be laundered periodically
- Wash or clean child car seat cover often
- Wash or change child’s bedding every few days. Use mild, fragrance-free liquid detergents, as these are easier on sensitive skin than powder or scented kinds
Insect bites can be avoided by using insect repellents and by wearing protective clothing made of tightly-woven fabric. Sleeves must be snug around the wrists, and pants’ legs must be snug around ankles, or tucked into socks or boots (otherwise, insects will eagerly access arms and legs through any small openings).
If you suspect that your child may have food allergies, eliminate possible food allergens one food at a time, after discussing the matter with the child’s doctor; the doctor will also guide you as to what foods to add to your child’s diet, to substitute the nutrients from a food that you eliminate.
All that said …
Let’s review some natural, safe remedies that have helped many parents bring relief from allergy symptoms to their children.
A strong immune system that can withstand allergens and pathogens alike begins with a wholesome, healthy diet. Some natural foods are particularly excellent at giving our bodies an extra fighting push, while actively stifling allergic response. Such is the case with the flavonoid quercetin, a nutrient or phytonutrient present in garlic, onions and apples.
Recent studies have found that quercetin has natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. Excessive release of the protein histamine by certain immune system cells, and the inflammation that follows, are at the heart of allergic responses in hay fever, eczema and asthma — the cold-like symptoms, itching and difficulty breathing that accompany these conditions, respectively. In the case of asthma, histamine causes not only swelling of the air passages, but it also causes the smooth muscle in the bronchial tubes to contract, constricting air flow. By blocking the release of histamine, quercetin prevents this cascade of events.
Besides turning simple meat or vegetable dishes into savory delights, garlic and onions have been used for thousands of years to help combat a long list of illnesses. The antioxidant quercetin, and their sulphur compounds, which include the very aromatic antioxidant allicin, have been found in modern times to help fight the common cold, cure infections, suppress allergies and even kill cancer cells. Garlic and onions have antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties. There are no other foods that are stronger at fighting disease than these two. They are potent whether you eat them raw or cooked; but they are at their most powerful in their raw state.
It’s perfectly safe for most children about a year old or older to eat garlic or onions, cooked or raw. Just be aware that a few people are allergic to garlic or onions. So, discuss with your pediatrician giving these to a young or allergic child, and always start out with the smallest of amounts, until you know that your child’s system tolerates them.
Also, raw garlic or onion is likelier to set off an allergic reaction than cooked, so, you may want to start by giving your child cooked foods that have been prepared with garlic or onion in them.
Invest in a good, heavy, metal garlic crusher, which makes crushing a lot easier. You can spread a little raw crushed garlic over your child’s toasted bread and drizzle it with olive oil, or add it to your vegetables and homemade oil-and-vinegar salad dressing.
If you give apples to your child, buy organic; according to the Environmental Working Group, apples have one of the highest levels of pesticide residues among fruits sold in the United States. Also, most of the nutrients are in the peel, so, it’s worth eating.
This wonder spice gives curry dishes and mustard their bright-yellow color. While Indian cooking couldn’t be done without it, turmeric isn’t too commonly used in American foods, except by the makers of mustard. But this is a spice that more people should learn to love. (Note: because a few people are allergic to turmeric, use in very small amounts to start, and in consultation with your health care provider.)
The scope of maladies that turmeric has been scientifically proven to help prevent, relieve or even help cure is impressive. As powerful as many spices are for their abundance of antioxidants, turmeric is one of the most powerful. Many studies have been done on turmeric all over the world; it has been found to help prevent Alzheimer’s, different cancers, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and yes, inflammatory diseases affecting the skin or respiratory system, including allergies, eczema, bronchitis and asthma.
Curcumin, the pigment that gives turmeric its rich yellow color, has been found to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Because inflammation is at the center of many illnesses, including allergic reactions, eating turmeric on a regular basis can be an excellent and all-natural way to avoid symptoms. In fact, studies have shown that curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties are comparable to those of hydrocortisone and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory ibuprofens like Motrin — without the long-term risks of synthetic steroids and OTC painkillers.
Turmeric, which is a mild-flavored, slightly bitter spice, can be used in meats, fish, vegetables, rice and spaghetti dishes. It can also be taken as a tea.
How to Make Turmeric Tea for Children’s Allergies:
Boil some water, then reduce heat. Add one-third of a teaspoon of turmeric powder per cup of water, stir, and simmer for five minutes. Turn off heat. Add fresh lemon juice or a little honey, or both. Honey in itself helps to desensitize a person to different pollens, thus lessening pollen allergies. So, if your child has those, let him or her eat small amounts of honey often. (But never give honey to a child under 1 year old, due to the danger of botulism.)
Turmeric tea for adults: use a whole teaspoon of turmeric per cup of water. If you wish to make this medicinal tea for your whole family, simply dilute tea that you give to your children.
Turmeric Paste for Rash, Itch and Eczema:
Mix turmeric powder with a little water, and apply to affected area. Leave on for 30 minutes, then rinse off with water and apply a good moisturizer to the skin (moisturizers with few ingredients are best).
Turmeric also has antiseptic properties and helps wounds heal faster, so, it is well-suited for chafed, irritated skin. (Note: if skin is broken and bleeding, clean first with hydrogen peroxide and cotton ball, apply turmeric powder by itself, and cover with a bandage or gauze. This treatment is not suitable for deep wounds.)
Ginger is another spice with wondrous medicinal properties. It’s in the same family as turmeric, so, it is no wonder that both of these roots share many of the same great medicinal attributes. Ginger has strong antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties; it promotes good health in general and good digestion in specific. Ginger is well-tolerated by most people with sensitive digestive systems, which people with food allergies and sensitivities have. (Though a few people are allergic to ginger; so, as with preceding remedies, use in small amounts to start, until you determine that your child’s system tolerates it.)
Use powdered or fresh grated ginger in your meats, vegetables, sauces and sweet, baked goods. Ginger also makes a tasty, preventive and restorative tea. With ginger’s natural antihistamine properties, ginger tea brings relief from watery eyes and nose, as well as itchy skin. Its anti-inflammatory properties will also help prevent asthma.
Ginger Tea for Children’s Allergies:
Place one-quarter teaspoon of powdered ginger, or a freshly peeled and chopped or grated small piece of ginger root in a cup. Add boiling water and wait 10 minutes. Stir in a little honey and lemon juice.
4. Oranges, Limes and Lemons:
Citrus fruits will compete head to head with other potent good-for-immunity foods like garlic, turmeric and ginger. Few foods are as good for renewing cells and maintaining overall good health as orange juice or strong lemonade.
Unfortunately, once again, a few people have allergies to citrus fruits; so, for such people, other measures may have to be tried. The good news is that if your child is allergic to one type of citrus fruit, you can try others, as not all citrus may be bothersome. For instance, they may have reactions to oranges, but be fine eating limes or lemons.
Citrus fruits have dozens of phytonutrients in each fruit; these natural compounds help maintain the body’s equilibrium and promote cell health. Citrus juices are medicinal, whether you have an actual cold or hay fever, or are simply trying to prevent them. Citrus flavonoids have been found in studies to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to the great antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties in citrus fruits, studies have found that regular consumption of citrus helps to prevent inflammation in asthmatic lungs and helps control wheezing.
5. Other Great Produce for Allergies:
Fruits: pineapple, berries (red and blue), kiwi and bananas.
Vegetables: sweet potatoes, carrots, avocados, kale, and mustard or collard greens.
Try these and others, to see which work for your child. The main thing to remember is that in addition to vitamins, minerals and fiber, fruits and vegetables as a whole have thousands of different phytonutrients, and these substances exist to give us nutrition and good health. It’s plain foolish not to help ourselves to the abundance that the land produces, which is the best way to maintain good health.
6. Essential Plant Oils:
Plant oils are another remedy that’s been used for millennia to fight a great array of illnesses. Essential oils have antibacterial and antiviral properties; so, they’re a natural choice in fighting upper respiratory congestion, runny noses, hay fever, skin rashes, eczema, and even asthma.
Talk to your child’s doctor about using essential oils in addition to doctor-prescribed medications. Some parents write online that essential oils have reduced or even ended their children’s need of conventional medicines for above ailments. But again, discuss everything with your child’s health care provider. As with pharmaceuticals, there is a very small risk that your child could be allergic to a particular plant oil.
Different oils have somewhat different properties, and some are more potent than others. Also, your child may like the way some oils smell better than others. Oils of eucalyptus, thyme, orange, lemon, lavender, peppermint and cinnamon are all stand-outs for fighting conditions like bronchitis, sinus pressure, itching, asthma and colds.
Please note: do not use a plant oil for a child during an asthma attack. Follow your doctor’s instructions for such emergencies. But some parents do report that by using essential oils as maintenance medication, asthma attacks occur less frequently or can even stop happening altogether.
The methods of using essential oils are varied. For respiratory allergies and asthma, inhaling an oil multiple times a day works well. Put 2 drops of oil on a cotton ball, and let your child sniff it, taking deep breaths.
You can also mix 5 drops of essential oil into a Pyrex glass bowl with steaming-hot water, and have child breathe in the steam from one foot away, for five or more minutes. Insure that bowl of water is placed on a safe, sturdy table, away from the edge, so that there’s no risk the child will spill water accidentally. Supervise a younger child closely while he or she does the vapor inhalation, and throw away water when child is finished. Tip: it helps if you cover child’s hair with a clean towel, leaving some free towel around the face for child to hold up with fingers, so as to capture more vapor around the face.
For rashes, eczema or insect bites, above essential oils can be used as follows:
Mix 10 drops of essential oil into one ounce of “carrier oil” (such as olive oil or coconut oil, both of which also have healing properties for the skin). Apply mix to affected areas of skin. For a child with asthma, this mixture can be massaged on their chest and back before they go to bed at night.
Lavender oil, a mild essential oil, has been used by some parents straight or “neat,” applied on child’s skin without a carrier oil.
Important: Before using any essential oil on your child, do a simple allergy test to make sure he or she tolerates the oil well. You do this test by having child sniff a drop of oil on a cotton ball. Then, apply a smudge of carrier oil combined with a drop of essential oil on a small section of child’s skin. If there are no allergic reactions, the oil is safe to use.
7. Colloidal Oatmeal, Aloe Vera and Baking Soda for Itchy Skin:
Oatmeal, aloe vera gel and baking soda have been used successfully by many parents as natural ways to relieve itchy skin in eczema and other conditions.
Oatmeal soothes and protects skin; “colloidal” simply means the oatmeal has been ground into a fine powder. It is applied to bath water, to relieve itch. The advantage of ground oatmeal is that it will remain more on the surface of the water, where it can heal the skin, instead of sinking to the bottom, as whole oats will do. Ground oatmeal can be bought at specialty stores, or it can be done at home with a blender or coffee grinder.
Colloidal Oatmeal Bath for Itchy Skin and Eczema:
- Use lukewarm water
- Use half a cup of ground oatmeal for a small child, one-third of a cup for a baby
- Distribute oatmeal in the water with your hand
- Let child soak in water for about 15 minutes
- Gently pat-dry skin with towel afterwards and apply moisturizer
- Oatmeal bath can be done more than once a day, if needed
You can also make a paste of oatmeal and water, and apply it to affected areas of the skin.
Aloe Vera Gel:
The properties of the aloe vera plant for healing skin are nothing short of magical. Aloe vera helps cuts and scrapes heal faster, moisturizes and also relieves itching. Tip: buy alcohol-free gel, as it will be gentler on skin.
Baking soda can be mixed in lukewarm bath water, to relieve itching from eczema, insect bites and other conditions. Use a quarter cup of baking soda in child’s bath (2 tbsp baking soda in baby’s bath). You do not need to rinse off baking soda when finished, as it is not toxic to skin. Gently pat-dry skin and apply moisturizer.
You can also make a paste of baking soda and water, and apply to affected area of child’s skin.
By Lisa Pecos