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Being diagnosed with environmental allergies can be a surprising and frustrating experience for a kid. While young kids may not understand the immune response and all physiological reasons behind their allergy, kids do understand how they feel.
If a child isn’t feeling well due to allergies, there are a number of ways to help them improve. Through education and a few simple lifestyle changes, there is hope for the future.
A quick look at the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology (AAAAI) website shows some disturbing facts:
- 24 million people are affected with allergies in the U.S., including more than 6 million children
- Allergies are the 6th most cause of chronic illness in the U.S.
- 5% of children have a food allergy
- 8% of children have been diagnosed with hay fever.
- Indoor pollution can be 2-5 times higher (EPA)
While food allergies are serious in their own right, we’ll be discussing environmental allergies in this article mainly because this is what affects me – not out of selfish reasons, but because I can attest to the challenges living with environmental allergies (less so with food).
My Allergy Life
Growing up, I showed the signs of allergies. The problem was that I looked ok apart from some sniffling, eczema, and fatigue. I was a kid and I was resilient.
I played sports, hung out with friends, and had a wonderful childhood. I was active so I dealt with the symptoms and stayed busy.
As I grew older (teenage years) I noticed a slow progression of my allergy symptoms. At the time I didn’t know they were allergies, I thought eventually I’d grow out of it and I continued to live a good life. Little did I know that allergies were starting to take over.
Eventually, I’d feel like I was held hostage by my allergy symptoms. The purpose of this article is to help other kids who might be experiencing the same things I felt as a kid.
Many kids will, in fact, grow out of their allergies. Many kids experience asthma and eczema when they are young, then their allergic disease goes away (or in remission) as they reach adulthood.
My experience, however, was much different. My allergy symptoms gradually got worse and affected my relationships, work, and social life.
The term used for allergies as they gradually snow-ball is called the “Atopic March” which begins in childhood, progressing from something simple like eczema to more severe allergies like food allergy, hay fever, and asthma.
I believe that treating my symptoms as an adult is more difficult – I really wish I could have caught it when I was young to avoid some of the pain I’ve encountered as an adult.
The ideas below use my experience with allergy and ways I’ve found improvement. They should not be viewed as medical advice and final decisions for ideas like supplements, antihistamines, and nasal sprays should be shared with a doctor first.
No. 1 Allergy Book For Kids
One of the first things you can do is read a book with your child. Education is an important step for kids that allow them to think more critically about their allergies.
An allergy book for kids shouldn’t be an academic endeavor, rather it should be simple and explain how the body reacts to foreign invaders that enter the body. In most cases, the body does it’s job well, but for some reason the immune response is overreacting to fight harmless things like dust mites, pollen, and pet dander
We like the book “What Makes You Cough, Sneeze, Burp, Hiccup, Blink, Yawn, Sweat, and Shiver”. The book is for children and covers more than just allergies – it shares how the body reacts and what should be expected, or cause for alarm.
The better children understand how their allergies are affecting their body, the better they can use logic to overcome it. It will also help them communicate when something is seriously wrong.
No. 2 Pillow and Bed Allergy Covers
Allergic kids can have sensitivities to all sorts of things. Most people who have allergies aren’t allergic to 1 thing, rather they are reacting to a range of things like pollen, dust, food, and chemicals.
For example, if you’re allergic to pollen, you might be sensitive to smoke or chemicals. Or you might be sensitive to dust mites.
Dust mites love our beds and pillows. Yep, you likely have dust mites (and their feces) in your pillow, blanket, and mattress. You can’t see them so you never know they’re there.
They like beds because humans spend so much time there and provide an endless feast of dead skin flakes while receiving warmth and moisture. If your child is allergic to dust mites, you’ll definitely want dust mite covers.
Related: Best Mattress Cover for Allergies
But even if your child isn’t allergic to dust mites, it’s a great idea to get covers to protect from other things. Maybe you have pets – over time their dander will get into mattresses and pillows.
Maybe you purchase down-feather pillows – those are bird feathers and your child might develop sensitivities to them.
Dust mite covers prevent dust, dander, and dirt from going into or out of a mattress and pillow. Using them is good bedroom hygiene.
I’ve even bought dust mite covers for family members who don’t have allergies. Once you realize what’s in your pillows, dust mite covers make everything more clean, helping you and your family breathe better inside.
No. 3 Essential Oils
Essential oils are “essential” for people with dust mite allergy. Washing clothes and bedding with essential oils will kill mites and larvae and freshen up clothes in a natural way.
But essential oils can help in more ways than just dust mites. I’m allergic to so many things that I don’t trust using chemicals in my home. Luckily there are many DIY sprays you can make using essential oils to clean surfaces like windows and tables, dust bookshelves, and freshen up the air.
I use a concoction of essential oils to clean in my kitchen and freshen up the house. They are effective, and many of the essential oils are anti-microbial in nature. I feel great breathing these and don’t have to worry whether chemicals are affecting my body (I really don’t know)!
No. 4 Stylish Allergy Mask
Exercising with allergies can be a tough activity. I often find myself struggling to exercise because I don’t want to inflame my sinuses or irritate my eczema. What can you do?
In the best case, exercising in a sterile environment will be allergy free – this is hard for kids. Most kids want to be with friends and not feel limited about playing sports or being at a friends house.
Traditional allergy masks don’t exactly look “cool”. They can look intimidating or scary because they don’t show the face. We like Vogmask because they’re adding an artistic twist to the allergy mask.
They have tons of prints and update them regularly. They also have a few sizes that should fit kids well.
If your child has severe allergies but doesn’t want to look scary by wearing an allergy mask, try getting them a Vogmask – who knows, they might even get compliments on the design.
No. 5 Air Purifier
The Environmental Protection Agency states that “Indoor air can be 2-5 worse than outdoor air”. That’s disconcerting.
An air purifier (read our air purifier reviews) is essential for kids with allergies. Air purifiers have become way better than what they were a decade ago. Most of the improvements have come by way of the filters and many have multi-stage air filtration that gets rid of the smallest airborne particles.
HEPA filters (High-Efficiency Particular Arrestance) are the best filters for kids with allergies. The filters have to be changed periodically but they are a great investment for bedrooms because we spend almost 1/3 of our lives sleeping.
There are small air purifiers for bedrooms and larger options for the whole house. Whole house air purifiers will be a considerable investment but they will truly improve indoor air quality.
Some filters have HEPA and carbon-based filtration to remove odors and gases from the air. If your child has indoor allergies an air purifier is a great decision!
No. 6 Grape Seed Oil
Grape seed oil…why is this on the list? Grape seed oil is a good natural moisturizer. It’s a lightweight oil that easily rubs into the skin and helps form a protective barrier. For kids that have allergic symptoms of eczema, grape seed oil will help nourish the skin without irritation or burning.
It’s powerful, rich in anti-oxidants and other vitamins that strengthen the skin. While most store-bought lotions have hard-to-pronounce-ingredients, grape seed oil is simple, natural, rich in vitamins, and inexpensive.
I usually put grapeseed oil on my skin before bedtime. I allow 5-10 minutes for it to soak into my skin and it won’t rub off onto sheets.
Give grapeseed oil a try – it won’t irritate skin. An alternative is extra virgin coconut oil. It works great too!
No. 7 Fish Oil, Quercetin, or Over-the-Counter Anti-Histamines
Allergy produces symptoms by way of inflammation. We can flight inflammation in a few different ways. Ice is one that athletes use after workouts – most people don’t like icing their eyes, nose, and skin.
Fish oil and quercetin are natural supplements found in many of the foods we eat. Fish oil – obviously in fish and Quercetin is found in many vegetables and fruits.
Taking these with a daily multi-vitamin is a good idea for kids, given they are old enough to swallow multi-vitamins (ask a doctor if you’re not sure). Fish oil supplements are available in gummies, and liquid is taken orally from a spoon.
Quercetin and bromelain are available in kids for as a chewable. For both fish oil and quercetin check instructions to see if they are suitable for your child.
No. 8 Less Carpet and Less Stuffed Animals
Every kid with allergy deserves less dust. Dust is mostly made up of dead human skin. It’s not pleasant to think about but inside dust can be dust mites (eating the dead skin), pollen, mold, pet dander, and other things that irritate our skin.
Carpets, stuffed animals, and more generally fabrics, can catch dust and hold onto them. Have you ever jumped on a fabric couch only to see a bunch of dust fly in the air…much of that dust is pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and dead skin.
Carpets are notoriously dirty and even the best vacuums can’t get all the dust from within. Over time, allergens make their way deep into the carpet and remain there. If used regularly, a carpet shampooer can help pull some of the dirt and dust out.
These machines use moisture and soap to wash the carpet and it works better than vacuums. Stuffed animals are also bad for allergies.
Pollen and dust mites become attached to the animals and can contribute to skin rashes and asthma. If possible get rid of stuffed animals. If it’s not possible, try washing with essential oil 1x time every 2 weeks. It should help remove most allergens.
No. 9 New Allergy HVAC filters
Your HVAC filter is not a common thought for families, but using a good filter can make a big difference in your kid’s allergies. What’s great about high-quality allergy filters is they help clean your house too. Running the vent (with windows and door closed) will create suction in the house.
The blowing air will stir up dust and the air will be circulated back through the intake. Using a strong filter in the intake will catch and trap dust. I always use this strategy when I clean and turn the HVAC on to capture anything in the air.
Related: Best HVAC for Dust Mite Allergies
I breathe better and I know it’s working because of the color of the filter changes from white to brown after only a month. Every two months I change the filter. I wish I would have used this technique when I was younger. I know I would have felt better.
No. 10 Safe Nasal Spray
Kids can also benefit from using nasal spray. There are a few good nasal sprays for kids available and they have great reviews. There are nasal sprays that only use saline and don’t use preservatives.
They keep sinuses moisturized and help soothe them as well. When sinuses dry out I’ve noticed my allergies get worse – flying on airplanes is horrible, similar to when the air conditioning or heater is running inside. A few sprays can help a lot and flush out allergens stuck in the nose.
No. 11 Remove Cleaning Chemicals From House
If you have cleaning products inside the house, consider moving them to the garage. There are 1,000’s of products out there for cleaning counters, window, carpets, and bathroom.
Most of them have harsh chemicals in them. I can’t even pronounce the names. Although they do a great job of cleaning they might be affecting our health if they are kept inside.
Growing up we had a laundry room right next to my bedroom. It was full of chemicals and the products rusted the hinges of the cupboards. I remember thinking to myself “If these chemicals are rusting the hinges of the cupboard, I wonder what they’re doing to my lungs”.
I really don’t know, so I’ve chosen to keep chemicals outside. I prefer to make organic DIY cleaning products to use in my home. Go for it if you’re like me and think there’s a chance it could improve your kid’s allergies.
Related: Best Dust Mite Sprays for Allergies
In this article, we looked at things every allergic kid needs. To make this list, I used my own experience, lessons I learned from my allergist, and methods I’ve used to reduce my allergy exposure in my home.
While doing all these things may not cure your kid’s allergies, it could help them breathe easier. We’d be thrilled if a few of these ideas can help educate your child and improve their quality of life. From one allergy sufferer to another, we hope your child finds relief and improves their allergy symptoms.
Thanks for reading, check in with our blog for future articles and helpful products.