Springtime has finally arrived and after a long, cold winter we’re all rejoicing. While the weather is still inconsistent, overall warmer temperatures mean that many people are experiencing the unwelcome return of seasonal allergies.
Seasonal allergies occur when your body reacts to airborne particles, most commonly pollen. At this time of year so many different things are in bloom- flowers, trees, weeds, plants- that a whole new host of spores and particles have been reintroduced into the air we breathe. For those who are allergic, these substances are met with a defensive reaction by the body. Upon contact with the allergen, allergy sufferers will experience a release of histamine as the body tries to shut out the particles that it perceives as harmful. The result is any combination of a runny nose, sinus congestion, itchy ears, nose, throat, and watery eyes. All of these symptoms are your body’s way of keeping airborne toxins out.
As adults we know to brace ourselves for allergy season, and it’s a time of year when many will reach for over-the-counter relief. As Modern Mom reminds us however, babies and children suffer from allergies too, and require safe and gentle forms of treatment. If your child is showing symptoms of an allergy, take a look at the different environmental factors that could be to blame.
Allergy symptoms in children
Springtime allergies can produce many of the same symptoms in young children and infants as adults, along with hives, fussiness, and impaired breathing. You may notice your child rubbing his or her face and presenting with a red nose and red, swollen eyes. A common sign of allergies in children that Dr. Heins notes is a palmed wipe up the nose- this is commonly referred to as the “allergy salute.” Children with allergies may also present with darkening around the eyes, which we’ve dubbed “allergic shiners.”
Dr. Heins’ best preventative health tip for allergy sufferers is nasal rinsing after school or before bed. This helps to literally wash out the allergens and reduce the histamine response in your child. Companies like HydraSense make baby-safe saltwater misting sprays and nasal rinses that are gentle and effective.
Use a vaporizer to keep air moist in your nursery or child’s bedroom, and consider elevating one end of your crib mattress to help with congestion during naps and at night. For an older child, encourage that they sleep on an extra pillow to slightly elevate the head. Just be sure that the neck is supported and doesn’t sit at an extreme angle.
You can also limit allergy symptoms by minimizing your outdoor time and keeping windows shut when the pollen count is high. Depending on the severity of the allergies, Baby Center recommends washing hands and faces when your child comes in the house from outdoors and removing clothing so it can be added to the laundry immediately.
Remember that babies are very sensitive and haven’t had as much exposure to various airborne substances, so keep a close eye on your child to avoid mistaking allergy symptoms for a cold. If your baby has hives or a rash, consult with a health care practitioner who can help you determine if the allergen is more likely airborne or ingested. Naturopaths can run allergy testing panels and use modalities like homeopathics to great effect- these are safe in infants and children, and can help push the immune system to better handle environmental aggravants.
Wishing you a safe and sniffle free spring!
A lifting guide for new moms from BabyZone provides parents with an important reminder: many mothers suffer from repetitive stress injuries from the daily physical demands of lifting, carrying and loading their infants into the car seat, high chair and crib. Preoccupied with the demands of newborn care and postpartum recovery, many moms easily overlook the fact that the regular care of a new baby can take its toll on many parts of the body, including neck, upper and lower back, arms, hips and knees.
A guide such as this is an important resource for learning how to avoid injury and muscle strain. In addition to complementary care such as regular chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy, we highly recommend following an informed set of lifting guidelines. Here are some of the best practices found in the article that we support and advise to our new moms as well.
When carrying a car seat: many moms make the mistake of putting the car seat handle over their forearm. They lean sideways at the hip to accommodate the bulk and weight. This strains muscles in the back and will eventually cause pain to the arm holding the seat. Instead, grip the handle with both hands and carry the car seat in front of your body. Avoid standing and holding the car seat when it isn’t necessary- if you pause to chat outside your car, put the car seat inside first, or set it down at your feet.
When lifting your baby out of the crib: Make sure to lower the railing. BabyZone’s guide is right to point out that lifting and holding the infant at arm’s length puts too much pressure on your spinal disks. Your arms will tire much more easily the further the baby is from your body. Instead, lower the railing, bring baby close to you, and lift from your knees.
Another common mistake occurs when lifting your toddler up onto your lap. Most moms will lean forward and pick the child up while still seated themselves. BabyZone warns that this increases the weight of pressure on your spine anywhere from 3 to 10 times! To your spine, you’re no longer lifting a 15lb toddler- you could be experiencing as much as 150lbs of stress to your spinal discs.
Instead, get on the floor with your baby. Kneel on one knee and lift using your whole body. Then sit down together on the chair or sofa.
With any of these daily lifting scenarios, be mindful of your own discomfort- if you start to feel recurring pain or think you’ve injured yourself, don’t ignore it! Repeatedly stressing the same muscles and discs could exacerbate the problem quickly. Instead, treat your body well, be careful when lifting, and remember that caring for an infant or toddler can be a major physical demand.
We know that babies often can’t communicate their needs clearly, and this makes it difficult to assess a new situation or environment. If it’s your baby’s first winter, you might be having a worrisome time deciding how to dress your infant for the cold, wet, windy (and sometimes unpredictable) weather we’ve been having.
Many parents’ intuitive move is to bundle, bundle, bundle. This is understandable, since babies are temperature-sensitive and their immune systems are still developing. They also don’t have much hair, making their heads highly exposed to the elements. We must remember however, that overheating is a real risk for young, sensitive babies, whether it’s in the car seat, stroller or crib.
Keeping Warm the Right Way
You’re right to keep your baby warm and dry, and to take special care to protect infant hands, feet, faces and heads. Make sure that your baby’s ears are covered to avoid the risk of an ear infection. Always cover hands and feet properly, but don’t necessarily use these as an indication of your baby’s temperature. Babies’ have different circulatory systems than adults, so testing their fingers or toes to the touch isn’t always an accurate way to tell if your child is feeling chilly.
While you should take your baby’s warmth seriously, you should also be mindful of overheating. Watch for signs that your baby or toddler is uncomfortable. He or she might tug at blankets and clothing, squirm and display reddened skin. Layering is a smart way to prepare for uncertain temperatures. This way, if you notice your baby overheating, you can easily remove a blanket or sweater. This is especially prudent if you’re on the go, and transitioning your baby between indoor and outdoor temperatures.
Be careful when swaddling as well. In the car, this can trap heat and raise your baby’s internal temperature. If you notice your baby fussing in the car and showing a flushed face, check that you haven’t overdressed or over wrapped. Remember that you can always add layers before taking your child out of the car.
Lastly, in wet, wintery weather it’s important to not only dress for warmth, but to keep your baby dry. Choose water-resistant fabrics when buying snowsuits, coats, mitts, and stroller covers. Remove damp clothes immediately when you come into the house –this means both you and baby. One of the most important factors for ensuring your baby is well taken care of is keeping YOU, the caregiver, healthy too! So always take a moment before you walk out the door to ensure that you’ve protected your hands and ears, and are dressed suitably.
Wishing you and your little ones health through the rest of winter!