Allergies: What’s the big idea anyway?!?

19 May 2015

BY: trini

Language / Orofacial Myology / Speech Therapy

by Carolinda “Trini” Myers-Murphy, MS CCC-SLP;COM

Cough cough sniff sniff….. oh what a relief it is.

Ok, ok, wrong jingle for wrong ailment, but it was catchy none-the-less.

So, if you’re a therapist, teacher, or mom, like me – has anybody noticed the rise in allergies these days? I don’t know if I’m aging myself here, but I remember when allergies consisted of those rare days my dad would turn on the lawn mower, and 30 minutes later come sniffling (stumbling) in the house swearing he would never be able to cut the lawn again -> EVER!!

woman_with_a_cold_or_allergy_198620THEN, peanut allergies seemed to be everywhere all of a sudden. Fast forward to today, and we have a whole schlew of allergies that kids seem pre-disposed to. Today it seems as if children are just living with these irritants chronically and constantly.  While there are foods and/or environmental factors that may have always been on the “high-watch list”, it has become apparent to me in my practice that more often than not, kiddos are walking through our doors with one, if not more, of these allergies.

Living here in beautiful Hawaii does have 1 major pitfall, and that’s year-round exposure to allergens. April showers and May Flowers might as well be December showers and January flowers. Beautiful? OF COURSE – you bet it is!!!!  Humidity demands attention to mold, volcanic eruptions and Kona winds to Vog. All of these add up to lush green forests, waterfalls, colorful sunsets and basically living in paradise, but to those with allergies it can wreak havoc on your breathing.

While I can’t attest to what or why children are suffering (it seems) to one or more allergens lately, I can only guess as to what’s causing this sniffling, coughing, throat clearing, eye itching craze.

ALLLLS I can say, is I should’ve bought stock in Kleenex.  I cant seem to keep enough of them in my office (that and hand sanitizer)!

So other than the sniffling and irritation, WHATS THE BIG IDEA?

EEK GADS!! ~ so many things come to my mind as a therapist. But for one: who wants to live like that?? It’s always amazing to me when a 13-year old walks through our doors, and he/she has never experienced “clarity” so to speak, both in the nose and in the mind. It’s like they constantly have the sniffles, and are always drugged with allergy medication; some of which have sleepy side affects (and while it may be helpful on a long plane ride, it’s typically a bad idea to be asleep in class). The other downfall is the quality of sleep you or child may be getting.  Your child may sleep through the night, but how well are they sleeping?  Have you ever lived with someone who snores so loud you’re burying yourself under a stack of pillows and singing “dust in the wind” in your mind (or shoot maybe out loud for extra measure) just to kill the noise??!? If yes, then that’s the lack of quality I’m talking about.

Without a proper nights sleep, I know I’m “lovely” to live with. However, I’m also foggy and forgetful. I’m unable to attend for long periods of time. Over time, day by day, month by month, year by year, these side effects can quickly add up to “struggling in school”.

On a more… ahem… scientific approach to the breathing apparatus, when you breath through your mouth instead of your nose, you’re circumventing natures’ natural filter apparatus and this places greater strain on your body due to the presence of minute impurities in the air. It also alters the function of your facial muscles, usually resulting in an unusually long and narrow appearance. The jaws tend to grow apart rather than together, forcing the tongue to be held lower in the mouth than normal. LONG STORY SHORT: this can cause abnormal positions of  teeth, which affects function as well as physical appearance.

At Speech Solutions Hawaii, when we see these cases, and there are a lot of them; I usually start making referrals right away to Ear Nose and Throat Specialists and Allergists. Depending on the child’s age, orthodontics might also be called upon. A child’s breathing might be helped with Myofunctional Therapy as well.

Remember, when looking at a person who needs speech therapy, it’s usually a bunch of pieces that make a whole.  While it’s just one piece of the puzzle, allergies are a pretty big piece to address. Don’t be afraid to ask your primary physician what resources are available to you.

As a therapist (Speech Pathologist and Orofacial Myologist), it’s clear (no pun intended) that a clear nasal passageway is important in making our goals a reality.  When we can get to the bottom of what’s causing the allergies and establish a clear nasal passageway, we have a whole host of new tools to work from.  Whether that’s just a good nights sleep and clarity of thought, to better form and function of our jaw, lips, and tongue.

Yup, it’s a pretty big deal, so for what it’s worth, get to the bottom of those itchy watery eyes, sniffles and coughs. Your body will thank you for it, and every other person in the house who has to listen to “dust in the wind” one more time in acapella will definitely thank you for it.