Congestion and Allergies

One of the issues that I often discuss with other moms of kids with special needs is how to deal with congestion and secretions. Many kids with CP have difficulty swallowing, and do not have oral motor or facial control to blow their nose, spit out mucus, or cough out mucus. Then the mucus itself sits around in their throats, sinus, ears, and even lungs, causing illnesses, vomiting, and pulmonary problems.

So I figured the first thing I’d do is tackle the issue of why our kids are often more congested than usual. First I will write my thoughts, then below I have a few quotes that I hope will explain a bit better.

I believe that many of our kids suffer from allergies, primarily food allergies. One of the reasons is because their immune system is impacted due to lack of mobility, frequent use of antibiotics, hypotonic organs, and repetitive use of certain foods. Many kids with CP are fed with formulas containing lots of sugar, dairy, and wheat. Using the same food day after day after day causes intolerance in the body, which then becomes an allergy. The body starts recognizing those foods as an invaders, creates specific antibodies for those “invaders” and every time those foods are consumed, an immune reaction is triggered, which often includes production of histamine and other neurotransmitters. Histamine causes congestion. So our kids then have constant underlying congestion which may not manifest in an obvious runny nose but which creates that “wet” sound that we often hear when our kids breathe.

Then if there are other allergies, like environmental allergies, or other foreign invaders like viruses or bacteria are introduced, the immune reaction is even stronger (if the child has a normal immune system) which makes them incredibly congested, which creates the pattern of congestion, infection, and severe illness.

Below are some quotes illustrating this:

What happens with a food allergy is the body makes antibodies against a particular protein in the food. These antibodies which have been made against those certain food proteins stimulate the body to fight against those proteins even though the proteins themselves are harmless to the body. In essence, the immune system of a person with food allergies harms its own body as it tries to defend against this otherwise harmless “enemy”.

Food allergy is a hypersensitivity reaction, meaning that before an allergic reaction to an allergen in food can occur, a person needs to have been exposed previously, that is, sensitized, to the food. At the initial exposure, the allergen stimulates lymphocytes (specialized white blood cells) to produce the IgE antibody that is specific for the allergen. This IgE then is released and attaches to the surface of the mast cells in different tissues of the body. The next time the person eats that food, its allergen hones in on the specific IgE antibody on the surface of the mast cells and prompts the cells to release chemicals such as histamine. Depending upon the tissue in which they are released, these chemicals cause the various symptoms of food allergy.

Your body’s immune system identifies allergens as intruders. It tackles these invaders by releasing several chemicals. Histamine, leukotrienes, prostaglandin, and tryptase are the chemicals the body uses to fight allergens in two phases.

Histamine is considered the most important early-phase defense. But when too much histamine is released, it may cause you to sneeze and feel congested. It can also cause other hay fever symptoms such as watery, itchy eyes, and a runny nose.

Histamine also causes your body to release other chemicals. Leukotrienes play a larger role in your body’s late-phase defense, and can cause nasal congestion.

So what to do about congestion and allergies?

I believe the first step is to identify food and environmental allergies. Unfortunately there are few conventional tests that delve into specific food allergies. However, nowadays there are many DAN doctors, biomedical doctors, naturopaths, and functional medicine doctors that will prescribe food allergy testing that looks at over 100 foods.

The most common, obvious allergens are dairy, wheat, eggs, and soy.

If you do not have one of those doctors close to you, you can try an allergy elimination diet – remove a food and watch your child for at least one week to see how he reacts. Of course this is not very reliable as there are too many factors – perhaps you removed the allergen but are giving him/her another allergen, so the reaction would continue the same. However, you may be lucky and stumble upon quick answers!

Once you know what foods your child is allergic to, there are a few more steps to take. At first you may want to eliminate the food from your child’s diet completely. This alone might help your child significantly. There are other ways of treating food allergies, including homeopathic remedies, NAET allergy elimination, and identifying the source of the food allergies.

In many cases, food allergies are caused by a leaky gut. If this is the case, you have to work on healing the leaky gut, otherwise the child will continue developing allergies to whatever you feed him. L-glutamine is a great supplement to help with a leaky gut, as well as other amino acids and minerals.

How you approach the allergy issue depends on the alternative health care practitioners available to you, and their “proven” approach to dealing with similar issues.

If congestion continues to be an issue, then of course it’s important to help the child manage the phlegm and secretions.

My “line of first defense” is the Neilmed Sinus Cleanse. You can read all about it here: On Boogers. After I use the sinus cleanse, Nathan almost always coughs and I can hear the mucus at the back of his throat. I then cover my finger in the towel that I used to cover him to prevent him from getting wet, and stick my finger into his mouth to stimulate his gag reflex. This makes him throw up and almost invariably he vomits the rest of the mucus that was floating around. Yes, very unpleasant, but works like a charm and has helped us a million times to help him recover from illnesses and problems.

By using the sinus cleanse a couple of times a day I can help him eliminate the mucus in his sinus, at the back of the nostrils, and at the throat. We do it every day since he has such intense allergies to help keep him “clear”.

There are also other supplements and homeopathic remedies that can help with congestion. Boiron makes one called Sinusalia, Heel makes Naso-Heel, and you can find others at a local health food store or online.

Nathan’s current homeopathic remedy which is helping him tremendously is a constitutional remedy prescribed by a very experienced homeopath. She chose it out of thousands and thousands of available remedies. She takes into consideration ALL of his symptoms and history, and then determines what she believes will address all of his symptoms most effectively. I wish I could recommend it for everyone but it is “his” specific remedy!

That’s as far as I’ve gotten in my “congestion” medical training. I am sure there is a “world” out there of other information, remedies, etc.

Please DO share if you have found other ways of helping your child. This obviously just reflects MY experiences with Nathan so there might be others with great ideas/information to share!


  1. Every since Ryland was put on Elecare we don’t have a problem with congention, like he did when he was on Pedisure and Bright Beginning. Up till he was about 5, we use to have to do Neb treatments often.
    He still has a little rattle noise but always has.

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