Megan Sheppard answer your questions.
Q: My eight-year-old daughter suffers from hay fever which we treat with antihistamines. Could you recommend a natural alternative?
A: Most cases of hay fever in Ireland have been found to originate from grasses rather than pollens, which means the conventional wisdom of using local raw honey will not necessarily help for non-pollen related cases. However, it is also worth noting that many sufferers react to more than one hay fever trigger.
Pollens and grasses can trigger a complete reaction with the mucous membranes, leading to a significant increase in the production of antibodies to deal with the invading pollen. This means your daughter’s histamine levels will be very high, which leads to symptoms such as irritation, swelling, redness, and streaming from the eyes and nose.
One herbal remedy that is tried and true for a number of allergic responses, including urticaria or hives, is nettle leaf. Nettle tea or tincture can be very effective in reducing or eliminating hay fever symptoms. If you are unable to find nettle tincture locally, then you can easily prepare your own using fresh leaves and vodka (35-40%).
To make, add around 30g of fresh chopped nettle leaves (wear gloves when you harvest and chop these) per 100ml of alcohol in a clean jar. Leave this combination to stand for two weeks in a dark cupboard, giving the jar a gentle swirl once a day. Strain the resulting tincture through a muslin cloth (you can also use a clean handkerchief, napkin, or tea towel in a pinch) and decant into a clean bottle. Label clearly and store in a dark cupboard.
Give your daughter 5ml daily of the tincture, diluted in warm water or freshly pressed juice.
It is important to ensure your daughter is getting enough vitamin C. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C works by reducing the amount of histamine released by the body, while supporting the immune system. To significantly reduce the histamine response, 2,000-3,000mg of vitamin C daily, in 500mg doses, is recommended. This is a perfectly safe dosage for your daughter, and can be taken as a chewable tablet.
Q: I’ve a six-month-old baby who suffers from sticky eye. What can I do to stop it from developing in the first place?
A: Chances are the sticky eye is a result of a slight blockage in the tear duct. The best course of action is to keep the area clear and clean until it naturally resolves itself.
The good news is that in most cases, infants do simply grow out of it with no long term issues. It is typically a result of the tear duct being smaller and narrower than usual while your baby is still developing. Once the tear duct is fully developed, any build up tends to drain into the sinuses rather than collecting in the eye area itself.
When wiping the area to clear the sticky build up, make sure you use cooled boiled water rather than warm water from the tap in order to prevent infection developing. Use a fresh piece of cotton wool or muslin cloth each time you clear the eye, and if you are breastfeeding you can use breastmilk in place of water. Do not use formula milk to wipe the eye.
If you are still dealing with this issue when your baby reaches 12 months, or if you are concerned that the area is infected (watch for changes in consistency, colour, and frequency of the build-up), you will need to book an appointment with a specialist.
It may help to very gently massage the area beside the nose for a few seconds three to four times daily to help clear the duct, but if you are at all concerned about doing this, then leave well alone. You will need to wash your hands thoroughly before and after massaging the area.