The Childhood Immunity Trio: Eczema, Allergies and Asthma
A child starts out with very little immunity developed at birth. The gross majority of an individual’s immune system is developed and cultivated with experience and interaction with the environment. The influences from our environment currently are not the same as our ancestors, and with these new influences come an increase in several disease states in children.
Eczema, allergies and asthma are all conditions associated with childhood; however, they are substantially on the rise as the immune systems of our children are developing in a world of numerous vaccinations, highly processed foods and medications that interfere with the immune system’s development, such as antibiotics and aspirin. Also, there are new challenges, with plastics and other chemicals for our children’s young bodies to have to process and clear. On the surface, conditions like eczema, asthma and allergic reactions seem like different organ systems and almost unrelated. However, all these conditions surface where the environment interfaces with the body, the skin, lungs and eyes and nose. Our immune systems are vigilant at these locations, monitoring for potential foreign antigens. The skin and lungs are also two of the four locations in the body known as the emunctories. Emunctories are the ways your body clears toxins and waste from the body. The secretions in sweat and the moisture and exchange in breath are both ways the body clears unwanted chemicals and substances. A challenged immune system and demand on our detoxification pathways strains different aspects of young people, manifesting in skin conditions like eczema, breathing conditions like asthma and allergic reactions, like itchy eyes and a runny nose.
Currently one in five children in the United States will develop eczema. Itchy, dry, red skin on the folds of elbows, behind ears or other patches on the body seems nothing more than that. It can blister and scab over time, but beyond the surface, eczema is a sign that the immune system is irritated, whether from an allergen, imbalance or irritant.
The most common chronic condition in children is the tight chest, wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing of asthma. Between five to fifteen percent of American children suffer from this condition. Fourteen million school days are missed by children every year due to asthma and the rates of cases of asthma and child deaths from asthma continues to rise.
Up to thirty percent of children suffer from some form of seasonal allergy. Stuffy nose, itchy eyes and many symptoms of congestion that mimic a common cold can plague a child year round. Molds, dust, ragweed and other pollens are in all our environments, however, they can be a poison to some young immune systems when these environmental triggers create inflammation and irritation in the body.
Calm and Balance
There are many external factors that up regulate portions of a child’s immune system. One of the goals when addressing an agitated immune system is to reduce inflammation and irritation and re-establish balance. Healthy fats can be part of the support of a calm immune system. Omega 3 essential fatty acids help keep the immune system calm and less reactive to external irritants. Studies have found it to be helpful for all three of the common childhood immune overreactions.
Another excellent way to balance the immune system is to help repopulate the healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. With a large part of the immune system being harbored around the digestive tract, researchers are now finding balancing bugs in the gut actually reduces risk of upper respiratory infections, improve skin conditions like eczema and reduces our allergic reactions to the environment.
Treat the Cause
While calming and balancing the immune system, addressing the cause of imbalance should be the long term goal. Naturopathic medicine aims to support the immune system’s development, by nurturing a natural response to colds, good nutrition and remove obstacles to cure, such as food sensitivities and allergies. Aiding a young immune system to develop correctly from the start may prevent other diseases in the future.
Dr. Lauren Young is a board certified naturopathic physician with a family practice at 135 Center St, Manchester. She is currently accepting new patients and is in network with most insurance companies. To make an appointment, call (860)533-0179 or visit www.ctnaturalhealth.com.