How we dealt with our son’s food and dust mite allergies

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A few years ago, we made several visits to the A&E department of KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital as our then one-year-old son, nicknamed Barnacles, had croup twice and contracted a respiratory virus. Later in the year, he was also plagued by cough in the wee morning hours. We were distressed and worried that he might go on to develop asthma.

We felt there was a need to probe further when he suffered from a bright red rash and cough after eating a fruit bar with cashew nuts. We sent him for an allergy skin prick test. This test determined that he was allergic to cashew nuts and dust mites, which partly explained his nighttime cough. While cetirizine (Zyrtec) worked like a charm to stop his nighttime cough and we were told that it was safe to use daily, we were concerned about the long-term effects of daily medication.

To address the cashew nut allergy, we had to pay extra attention to food ingredient lists. Through trial and error, we realised that even though the skin test didn’t reveal any allergy to other nuts, certain fruit bars with other nuts would sometimes cause him to cough. We surmised that it could be due to such bars being produced in factories that also mill cashew nuts. We learnt that when it comes to sensitive kids, prevention is better than cure and it’s best to choose ‘pure’ (as opposed to ‘processed’ or ‘mixed’) foods wherever possible.

Addressing the dust mite allergy was also not an easy battle with our hot and humid Singapore climate being the perfect breeding ground for dust mites, be it in beds, bed sheets, cushions, pillows and soft toys. And so began our quest to find natural solutions for our son’s sensitive nose. Here’s our list of tips, which we hope others will find useful:

Home-related tips for dust mite allergy:

  • We changed our curtains to blinds as they collect less dust and are easier to clean.
  • We bought air purifiers for each of our rooms. We were extra thankful to have them when the haze came around and we had to stay indoors. After much research, we chose an Amway Atmosphere air purifier endorsed by the British Allergy Foundation and supposedly able to remove 99.99 per cent of all airborne contaminants. We also considered a Honeywell air purifier, equally recommended for allergies.
  • If you can’t get rid of your carpets, vacuum them regularly.

Bedding tips for dust mite allergy:

  • We replaced the kids’ mattresses with latex ones, which are inhospitable to dust mites. We bought a BabySafe cot for our younger son and an Ibenma single bed for our older son. In addition, we use 3M anti-dust mite pillows and BabySafe latex pillows and bolsters.
  • We purchased b.sensible anti-dust mite waterproof bed sheets for all our beds. We also encased our pillows and bolsters in King Koil Protect-a-Bed waterproof covers.
  • We vacuum the mattresses every one to two months with a Delphin vacuum cleaner. As not all vacuum cleaners can remove mites, be sure to do some research before purchasing one.
  • We spray the mattresses with Daniclin anti-dust mite spray (safe for babies).
  • We change the kids’ bed sheets every one to two weeks and wash them in minimum 60-degree water to kill dust mites and allergens. Daniclin also sells an anti-dust mite laundry liquid.

Toy-related tips for dust mite allergy:

  • We got rid of all stuffed toys in the house save for three of Barnacles’ favourite sleeping toys, which are allergy-friendly and machine-washable at 40 degrees. However, as 40-degree water is insufficient to kill dust mites, we freeze stuffed toys overnight every six weeks (to render allergens inactive) before putting them into the washing machine. Toys that cannot be machine-washed should be vacuumed after freezing to get rid of dead dust mite allergens.

Finally, to boost our son’s immunity, we introduced supplements including probiotics, vitamin C and additional doses of elderberry syrup or Echinacea for kids whenever he shows signs of falling ill. At the recommendation of a friend who also had children suffering from itchy nose allergies, we decided to try out a homeopathic remedy for seasonal allergies. After doing some research, we picked the brand Orange Naturals as its products are crafted by licensed Canadian naturopathic doctors. While we were skeptical at first, they worked at reducing the itch when Barnacles suffered from an itchy nose, and we managed to hold off giving him medication several times. We have also tried the fever remedy, which helped to ease low-grade fevers.

Elderberry syrup and Echinacea syrup from Gaia Kids. We give this to Barnacles when he is falling ill.
Probiotic powder and homeopathic remedies for fever and allergies from Orange Naturals.

With all these measures, we did notice an improvement in Barnacles’ itchy nose. However, with two kids in the house, it is definitely an uphill battle to keep up with the constant cleaning, so our next to-do project is to declutter our small flat.

Mummy and Daddy Daycare are the pseudonyms of a Singaporean husband and wife who are raising two young boys aged four and one, nicknamed Barnacles and Kwazii from the children’s Octonauts series.

Get into the minds of this couple who describe parenthood as a lifetime adventure – you are always learning something new! Whoever said parenting was a walk in the park?