Moms of kids with allergies have to do double duty to keep their bundles of joy safe, happy, and healthy. In the Moms of Allergic Children community, moms are sharing their concerns and questions about allergies. Here are some quick tips from Dr. Oz for them and others on how to treat — and prevent — some common allergies.
Let Her Eat Dirt
No, not as a meal and not by the bucket load. The point here is that it's better for your child to get messy, get dirty, and come in contact with the natural world than it is for them to grow up in an ultrasterile environment where you scrub every surface with disinfectant. The reason: you need to allow their immune armies to get their basic training. If they don't have an opportunity to practice fighting, then they'll be trigger-happy when they encounter a minor intruder. So while we certainly recommend that you be vigilant when it comes to hand washing to protect against those viruses and bacteria that can get passed from kid to kid and from hand to mouth, remember that there's an absolute biological advantage to exposing your kid to all kinds of things in the natural world, including dirt. Note the difference between dirt (organic, such as what's found on a farm) and filth (city grime).
You can't cure allergies or asthma, but you can minimize the damage by trying to reduce your child's exposure to triggers. Some tactics you can take:
- Keep the floor in your child's room uncarpeted, because bare floors don't trap allergens as much as rugs and carpets. Even better, do the same for the whole house.
- Use light drapes that you can wash regularly instead of heavy ones, which can trap dust. Even better, install blinds and wipe them down frequently.
- Use special one-micron or latex covers for all pillows and mattresses to keep dust mites from sneaking onto your child. Commonly sold as "hypoallergenic dust mite protectors," they should zip close, not just wrap or stretch around like a fitted sheet.
- After your child plays outside, change her clothes, because they may have picked up pollen. Have her take a shower or bath at the end of a good day of play outside to minimize exposure to poison ivy and other contact allergens.
- If your child is waking up with allergic symptoms, it could be the stuff inside her pillow, either the feathers or the mite poop. Switch from feather to foam and seal with a one-micron pillowcase to see if her symptoms improve.
Get Your Pets First
In an ideal world, you'll want to have the pets before the kids. Why? That way, your newborn will be exposed to the animal's allergens from the get-go, so her immune system will learn how to handle them and thus reduce risk of allergy. If you have a family history of pet allergies, you may have to choose not to have any furry pets at all (fish are nice), or do some research on dogs to find some of the less allergenic breeds, such as poodles and labradoodles.
Watch the Eggs
We recommend that you avoid giving egg whites to children until they're at least 1 year old, because exposure to the whites may induce an allergy. A hard-boiled egg yolk is OK after 6 months of age. By the way, kids typically outgrow egg allergies by age 2.
If your child has a severe peanut allergy or other serious allergy, you will have to be her strongest advocate everywhere she goes — clearly communicating in writing the seriousness of the allergy and how to handle it, including prevention, an action plan in case of exposure, and emergency numbers. Many other parents will try to help, some will be aloof, and some will underestimate the severity of the problem, so make no assumptions about what other people know and don't know about allergies. Be clear about the risks and about the parameters: for example, that your child will get reactions even if the peanuts are anywhere in the room. As your child gets older, she'll learn what she can and can't have, but at this stage, it takes hyper-vigilance on your part to educate everyone else around her.
It's important to clear up some of the most common rookie mistakes that adults make: like making a sandwich with the same knife that was used to spread peanut butter, or sharing foods that don't overtly contain any peanuts but may have been made with peanut oil. We recommend that you check with the manufacturers of all foods your child eats to make sure that their production lines are nut-free. Interesting note: a lot of locally made products are manufactured at small facilities where different food companies rent time, so you don't know whether another food company may have contaminated the equipment. Often, the large national brands are the most reliable.
Since many kids are allergic to the protein in cow's milk, you need to watch out for symptoms that may indicate such an allergy in babies. The symptoms may include bloody or mucousy stools, irritability, and the baby drawing her knees up to her abdomen from cramping. If that's the case and you are feeding with formula, you can switch to a nonallergenic brand, and the symptoms will usually resolve within a few days. If you're breastfeeding, you may need to experiment with your own diet. Eliminating milk protein from your diet often will do the trick. Children often outgrow milk allergies by age 2, so ask your doctor about reintroducing milk in small amounts periodically to see if your child can tolerate it down the line.
Help Your Child Breath Easier
If your child suffers from asthma, prevention is half the battle. Some actions you should take:
- No smoking and get rid of all allergy triggers.
- Keep pets out of your child's bedroom — or even better, out of the house.
- Stay calm. When your child is having trouble during an asthma attack, it's easy to panic. But your losing control only exacerbates your child's stress response, further constricting his airways. Having a clear plan for how to respond will help ease some of your anxiety.
- See the animals. If you live near a zoo, take your child there before she turns 6 months old. While she won't remember the poop-playing monkeys or the sleep-all-day lions, her immune system will. The zoo is filled with a particular type of antigen called endotoxin, which will actually help your child build up her immunity army. Similarly, if you can visit a working farm before your child is 6 months, you'll reap the same benefits.
- Get up and go. Children who hang out in front of the TV for two hours a day seem to double their risk of developing asthma. The theory is that TV watching takes the place of physical activity. While the relationships between the behaviors and asthma aren't fully known, researchers believe there's a link between lack of physical activity and a change in the structure and function of the lungs. Go swimming: it seems like swimming does an excellent job of lessening asthma symptoms in children, although some kids do have reactions to the chlorine.
A New York Times No. 1 bestselling author and host of The Dr. Oz Show, Mehmet C. Oz, MD, is also professor and vice-chairman of surgery at New York Presbyterian-Columbia University and the director of the Heart Institute. For more from Dr. Oz, check out You: Raising Your Child and You: Having a Baby, both coauthored with Michael F. Roizen, MD.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.