Zainab Arsiwala’s daughter was three months old the first time it happened. Her neck was red and glazed in rashes. The doctor called it ‘topical eczema’ and linked it to seasonal allergies.
“These allergies flare up during extreme heat and cold. She gets rashes, feels itchy, there’s skin discolouration, lots of bleeding episodes,” shudders Arsiwala.
These allergies flare up during extreme heat and cold.
Seasonal allergies, explains Dr Ali Ali, Consultant Family Medicine at King’s College Hospital London in Dubai, are “… allergic reactions that people get during certain seasons, usually in summer. This is usually when the pollen levels are high in the air, and it is also commonly known as hay fever.”
He adds: “The most commonly used medications to treat symptoms are:
- Antihistamine tablets or nasal sprays.
- Steroid nasal sprays
- Eye drops
“Whether tablets or sprays are used would depend on the patient’s symptoms as well as preference. When a person feels that their symptoms are affecting their day to day function is probably the best time to consider medication.”
Arsiwala was reticent to use steroids – as recommended by her doctor – on her baby, so she looked for alternatives, trying in turn homeopathy, which didn’t work; shea butter slatherings, which resulted in skin discolouration; and finally, steroids for a three-month period. “Now, I’m consulting a doctor in India and there’s only moisturisation, no medication but strict diet control,” she says.
In deciphering which environmental factors played a role on the inflammation, Arsiwala discovered that her child was allergic to both - weather extremes and certain foods. “We did an allergen test when she was one and a half; she’s got allergies to seasonal changes as well as some foods. She’s allergic to cow’s milk, for example,” she says.
Instead, the four year old will drink almond milk, eat sesame seeds – rich in vitamins and minerals – and plenty of fruit. “She has at least two kinds of fruits every day. She has no frozen food, junk food, nothing too sugary,” says Arsiwala.
She adds that when it comes to allergies, moisturisation and hydration is key. “When a child’s skin starts getting dry, they start itching.”
However, while calling for a good slather of lotion, she does recommend a trial period. “Not every cream will work for every child. I’ve tried many different ointments, but the current one is the only one that works for her,” she explains.
Lungs can be impacted
The seasonal allergies were so bad that Surbhi Daga's son had to be strapped on to a nebulizer when he had an attack. He developed allergic bronchitis that needed to be treated using steroids. The expat recalls the strain of watching her child gasp and struggle to breathe. “I was already having sleepless nights [worrying and trying to help him] and then having to go to work the next day, it was getting very difficult,” she says.
And she noticed that the bronchodilator – which relaxes the muscles of the lungs - and steroids that she would give her nursery-going son would also cause him to become hyperactive.
We know that people who suffer from asthma and/or eczema are more likely to get seasonal/summer allergies.
It all began when he started nursery, at the age of two, says Daga. “I thought it was some general virus he was catching from school. But when it started becoming very often, we took him to a doctor who diagnosed it.”
After 10 miserable months with little respite, Daga decided to give homeopathy a try. “The doctor I am seeing in Dubai assured me that this allergic thing will go but it will require a lot of time and patience and it may get worse before it gets better,” she tells Gulf News. “When he was on homeopathy it continued for a good nine or ten months, but then it got better. It’s been a year I’ve been sticking on to only homeopathy, and the intensity and frequency of flare-ups has reduced. So he’s been off everything including nebulisation for four months.”
“Laboratory investigations such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate test – which detects inflammation – and immunoglobulin or antibody tests along with skin allergy tests will point to the level of allergy and detect allergens. However, we need to find a definite sustainable solution to cure these allergic tendencies.
“The best way to address these reactions is not to suppress the manifestations by any means but to address the problem with an approach that gives long lasting relief. In homeopathy, there are medicines to treat the acute exacerbations without causing any suppression, which is then followed up by other medicines complimenting its course, which regulates the excited immune system, reducing the intensity and frequency of attacks and eventually leading to permanent cure.
“Homeopathy is a mode of treatment which works on building resistance or immunity against these allergens by triggering a self-curative response within the body’s immune system without introducing any chemical substances in the body to help heal naturally.”
Homeopathic treatment is unique as it is individualised based on the need of each child whose trigger might vary from dust, pollen, strong smell, weather, change of temperature or even stress for that matter. All medicines should be taken under the supervision of a Homeopathic practitioner to get the right cure, she concludes.
It may run in families
Wajiha Ghayas Faraz’ history with seasonal irritants dates back to her own childhood. “I had these allergies growing up, so what used to happen is the same routine thing, same Panadol, antihistamine, and then I had asthma as well at that point. It was really rough for me.” There was a short period of relief and then it all came back.
As a 20 year old, she says, the allergies, the asthma resurfaced. “At that time, even the antihistamine stopped working for me and so what would happen is that I would be with a tissue paper the whole day. I would have a runny nose constantly,” she says.
I finally got out of my cycle using homeopathy because I knew that it would work, from experience. So I found a doctor here, he started their treatment, it helped them stabilise.
So when she saw her two girls following her patterns, she knew immediately what it was. “My elder one would get really sick when the seasons would change. The allopathic doctor said just give her the inhaler because she’s growing up and she’ll grow out of it because her lungs will have the space to grow.
“But I felt that she’s getting dependent on it - every single day, I had to give her inhaler, nebulise her, do one thing or the other. Then my little one used to get the same thing.”
So she decided to consult a homeopath. “I finally got out of my cycle using homeopathy because I knew that it would work, from experience. So I found a doctor here, he started their treatment, it helped them stabilise. But the actual thing that worked on them was herbal medication,” she says.
The doctor focused on improving immunity by improving gut health. “She gave me and my daughters probiotics and I also gave them vitamin C and D on a daily basis, so that helped in building up their immune system. So even now when I look at them, any change in season or viral infection, they don’t get it as intensely as other kids get it,” says Ghayas Faraz. She admits to keeping a stock of antihistamine, but it’s only used as the last resort.
International Air Transport Association offers the following advice for allergen-sensitive passengers
• Contact your physician and discuss the travel-related risks involved. If he/she prescribes an epinephrine (adrenalin) auto-injector make sure you always carry this medication, any other prescribed medication for your allergy and your written emergency plan, in your carry-on baggage.
Have the medication easily accessible throughout the flight (at your feet or in the pocket in front of you).
While many airlines carry epinephrine in accordance with their national regulations, most of them do not carry an epinephrine auto injector. The same applies to any other emergency medication that is prescribed for you.
• Make sure that you carry a prescription for the auto injector and an emergency plan signed by your doctor to avoid problems when passing through airport security.
• When you make your reservations, you should ask the airline how they deal with allergen-sensitive customers. It is always preferable to deal directly with the airline and not through a third party. Even if the airline does not serve the food to which you are allergic, it cannot guarantee an allergen-free environment.
• Allergen-sensitive minors should never travel unaccompanied.
• If you purchase travel insurance, consider asking the insurance company if you are covered in case of anaphylaxis or other severe allergic reactions.
Day of travel:
• Arrive early at the airport and allow yourself plenty of time to re-confirm your requests regarding specific seating, early boarding, etc.
• Consider mentioning to the passengers sitting close to your allergic child that they have a severe allergy. If it is your child, try to position the child away from other passenger (a window seat for example or between yourself and your spouse or another one of your children).
At reservation time, you can also request the back or front row of a section, which will also limit the proximity to other passengers.
• Consider bringing your own sanitizing wipes if you wish to wipe down the armrests, meal trays and seat back areas of your seats.
• Consider alerting the cabin crew in-charge that you or your child has a severe allergy so they can respond quickly and appropriately if a reaction occurs. However, be advised that many airlines will not make specific broadcast announcements to passengers for these cases.
• The safest option is to take your own food on board with you. Should you decide to do so, ask the airline at the time of reservation if it has any restrictions on food brought on board. For instance, some airlines have regulations restricting the re-heating of passengers’ food. It is always preferable to take non-perishable food. If you have a multi segment trip, you may have to check the different applicable quarantine laws before departure, as some countries may not allow certain types of food to be carried in transit.
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