When seasons change

Kids’ health issues… Just when you think you’ve got them under control, often you can find yourselves off course again. At this time of year, blame the change of seasons, as spring sweeps in with a raft of new trigger for common complaints.

Hay fever/ Seasonal allergies

A very common cause of seasonal hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is pollen. Spring winds combined with the start of new growth in gardens and green spaces can be a nightmare for those who suffer. Be mindful that pollen counts are highest outside, in the morning, on windy days, or after a thunderstorm. Considering these times when planning your child’s day can help limit their exposure to those pesky, powdery wind-borne grains. There are a variety of pharmaceutical remedies to alleviate the symptoms of hay fever, but if these prove ineffective, immunotherapy is also an option. There is limited evidence that eating raw local honey may help some people.

Dry skin

Winter can be rough on our skin. Extremes of temperature may stress the skin out, causing dry, scaly patches, particularly on elbows, knees, and feet, and general skin dryness. Homes heated by air-conditioning units, conventional heaters, and fireplaces are cosy and dry, but can contribute to over-heated, under-nourished skin. Luckily there are plenty of natural remedies you can turn to in order to rehydrate your child’s dry skin. Try honey, buttermilk, olive oil, castor oil, coconut oil, or shea butter as readily available ingredients to slather on skin, making it soft, moisturised and good enough to eat. Visit the GP if dry skin issues are making your child very uncomfortable, or if the skin becomes cracked or bleeding. Emollient creams may be prescribed to keep the skin moist and flexible.

Common cold

It may seem like the spring breeze blows a fresh round of colds into your household every year. This is caused by changes in temperature, which allow different groups of viruses to flourish. Studies show rhinovirus and coronavirus are the main viruses responsible for the common cold, and these both proliferate in spring. If one of the family’s immunity is low, one of those viruses may take hold and result in the classic “common cold”. Highly contagious, colds have a habit of making the rounds through the family. To avoid infection, encourage family members to wash hands frequently, don’t touch faces with unwashed hands, and give the sickie in the family a wide berth. (Blow a supportive kiss from the bedroom door!) Natural remedies for alleviating the symptoms of a cold are many and varied. Try ginger to bring down inflammation, clear congestion and support the immune system, eucalyptus oil to clear a stuffy nose, and honey for antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-viral properties. Limit sugar and processed foods, and get plenty of rest.

Cold sores

Caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), unfortunately cold sores in children are fairly common. A highly infectious virus, it can often be transferred by kissing or sharing utensils with an infected person. Many children will be infected at preschool or childcare, and children can also pick up HSV-1 from an infected adult. Small, painful blisters come up on the face, usually around the mouth, and go away within about a week. Due to its contagious nature, it’s important to try to prevent spreading the infection to other family members or friends. Ensure they have their own set of cutlery at mealtimes, and stress the importance of not sharing any drinking vessels, utensils, flannels, or towels. Wash the items thoroughly in hot, soapy water after use. Wash hands frequently, especially after touching the cold sores, avoid touching
eyes, and if your patient wants to kiss, explain it must be the blowing kind only until they’re fully recovered.


Sadly, New Zealand has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world, with around one in four children affected by asthma. Common seasonal asthma triggers include pollen, temperature, humidity and pollution, and the change from winter to spring can play havoc with the condition. Asthma constricts the airways. In the extreme, asthma attacks can be terribly frightening for parents as they watch their child struggle to breathe. The key to avoiding asthma symptoms is to try to identify your child’s individual triggers. Keep a diary to help you figure these out, including activities, weather conditions, food eaten, etc. Medication may be required if asthma worsens, so visit your GP if your child’s asthma symptoms progress. If your child is really struggling to breathe, call an ambulance.

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