Wicked winds send fingers up noses! Hope is at hand!!

Posted by on 31 October, 2010

itchy nose!

This has absolutely been the worst year of hay fever I have ever seen. And spring has only just sprung. The number of wheezy, sinusey adults in my office, not to mention the kids with fingers planted firmly up itchy little noses has hit new highs.

The problem with allergies in children is not just that they have a constant runny nose and red eyes but that the itch that goes with it brings its own consequences. Specifically kids who shove their fingers in the eyes and up their noses all day because they’re itchy escort little bugs into their most vulnerable passages and therefore get every virus going. It can be hard to know where the allergy stops and the cold begins.

The reason for the particularly nasty spring is a subject of conjecture. A recent climate change and health conference heard that one of the effects of climate change is to make conditions better for allergens. All that pollen is blowing around in greater numbers and lasting longer in the air. Then there’s the pollution problem. Allergies are really a problem of developed nations and are worst in polluted cities.

So what can you do for allergies? If you know what your triggers are and they are avoidable, you can do your best never to come in contact with anything that makes you sneeze. Good luck with that. Meanwhile back in the real world, antihistamines are available over the counter and seem to be safe for use in the long term, even every day if necessary. If this isn’t enough, you can get a referral to an allergist who can diagnose your allergies down to the species of grass pollen and then set you up for desensitization. These weekly then monthly injections come with a hefty price tag but are 85% effective and when you wake up most mornings with puffy eyes and spend all day sniffing, sneezing and feeling wiped out by your allergies, it’s a good investment.

So as a parent, if you have a little one with this allergy-cold and flu cycle happening, your options are a bit different. There are antihistamines and they’re probably safe to use every day but we don’t have hard scientific data on that. We never desensitize children. One thing that works a treat is fish oil. Studies back up my experience that enough anti-inflammatory omega-3s (the wunder-ingredient of fish oil) will help dampen down asthma and allergies in most children. They do have to have fish oil every day though, not just when the eyes start swelling and the nose starts itching.

We know 9 in 10 Aussie kids don’t get enough fish in their diets and as I relegate frozen fish fingers to the bin along with Twisties, chips and Coke, the real number’s probably even higher.

I give my own kids 2 fish oil supplements a day. I keep them in my drawer at work as well and have started giving my little patients from the ages of 18 months and up a ‘doctor lolly’ (in actual fact a colourful, fish shaped and sweet tasting fish oil supplement) instead of a sticker after they see me. Not much downside given that they’re good for brain and eye development as well and have basically no side effects in children.

Good luck with the rest of spring and I hope the fish oil takes the edge off your little ones’ hay fever!