If you’re worried about allergies, consider this: the single factor that most protects a child from the development of allergies is exposure to bacteria early in life. On the other hand, excessive hygiene and liberal use of antibiotics in early childhood actually increase the risk of having allergies later in life.
A study carried out in Finland shows that forests and agricultural land around homes protects children from developing asthma and allergies. An Austrian study echoes this finding, revealing that children between the ages of 0 and 5 who have been exposed to stables and farms are more likely to be protected against the onset of asthma, hay fever, and other allergies. It is never too late to start spending more time in nature, but it is particularly important if you have children under 5.
If your child is over 2 and has sneezing fits, teary eyes, and gets a stuffy and runny nose every time they come into contact with pollen from trees or grasses, they most likely have seasonal allergies. The doctor may recommend a blood test to check for the presence of antibodies to common allergens.
If your child is diagnosed with seasonal allergies, the best treatment is to minimize exposure to triggering agents. Some tips:
- Make sure your child wears a mask when spending time outdoors during the blooming season.
- Have them change and take a shower as soon as they get home to remove pollen from their skin and clothes.
- Use a saline nasal spray at least once a day to remove pollen from their nostrils.
- Administer an antihistamine daily during the blooming season.
- Use an air purifier in your child’s bedroom and play area.
- Inform their teacher to make sure they wear a mask during outdoor activities at school and wash their hands and face when re-entering the classroom.
In some cases, moving to Beijing may help rather than exacerbate seasonal allergies. This is because there are lower levels of airborne mould resulting from the city’s dry climate and more contact with non-sterile environments.
To increase your child’s exposure to bacteria, let them get dirty by starting your own little vegetable or herb garden at home. Buy seed packets and have them help you plant them in pots or planters. This exposure will decrease the future risk of developing allergies.
This article originally appeared on p27 of the beijingkids June 2015 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Mislav Marohnic (Flickr)