Q: Hurricane Sandy didn’t come near where we live. However, while we were all worried about the people it affected, my 8-year-old daughter became very frightened and upset. Is that kind of anxiety nutty or normal? — Georgia P., St. Louis
A: Children often personalize situations — fearing that bad things will happen to themselves, their family or friends. So your child isn’t nutty, but you are describing anxiety that’s not constructive. You want to help her get over this and then find ways to prevent her from getting that upset next time there’s news of another natural disaster or some man-made tragedy.
Here’s how to ease her upset (and remember, these situations get to all of us to one degree or another).
1. Limit your family’s exposure to TV, Internet and tabloid news stories — the 24/7 news cycle fuels repetitive and dramatic reporting of even minor details.
2. Kids pick up on negative parental vibes, so accentuate the positive. Point out how brave the first responders are; how the early-warning system saved lives; and how people are pulling together to help one another.
3. Show your child there are many ways to help those who have been affected by the incident. Volunteer as a family to provide assistance; for example, you can gather goods to donate to those in need. If your daughter feels she’s helping to improve the situation, it becomes less frightening.
4. To counter stress, make sure the whole family gets plenty of physical activity, enough sleep and eats well. Enjoy blood-sugar-stabilizing 100 percent whole grain (comfort) foods like oatmeal, and keep your mind sharp with omega-3-rich salmon and selenium-loaded Brazil nuts.
5. If your child continues to talk about doom and gloom, make sure you listen, offer reassurance and show her examples of how life is getting back to normal in places where Sandy — or any other event — caused destruction. You’ll feel better, too.
Q: Leaves are gone, there are no flowers, but my allergies just keep going. What is it that gets me sneezing and congested during the winter? — Penelope P., Zanesville, Ohio
A: Mold spores and dust mites are the usual suspects when it comes to identifying winter allergies. Mold spores can lurk in piles of rotting autumn leaves; in soil (outside or in house plants); behind the walls of your house — if there’s a slow drip in a pipe; and anywhere that moisture accumulates, from shower stalls to drain pipes (also inside or out). Outdoors, molds can survive the first hard frost. Indoors, they love humidity. Keep yours at 35 percent to 45 percent, or you’re just asking mold to thrive.
Then, there are dust mites. These microscopic critters live indoors and feast on dry flakes of human skin that collect in bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, bookshelves, behind radiators and in closets. They crank out little bits of waste (mite poop, really), and that’s what triggers your allergy. The best defense? Wash bedding in water that’s 130 degrees or higher, get mite-proof bed coverings and keep inside humidity below 35 percent.
The symptoms of mold and dust mite allergies are similar to summertime allergies: sneezing, itchy eyes (more mites than mold), runny nose and congestion, even skin irritation and dry patches. Relief comes from antihistamines that stifle symptoms. But if you get mold in your lungs, you can develop asthma (wheezing, shortness of breath) and may need to use an inhaler to get relief.
But we like the idea of making an end run on allergies by boosting your immune system and desensitizing your body to the allergy triggers.
What works? Some studies show that getting a lot of folate from food (fortified grains, spinach, asparagus and broccoli) and 400 micrograms from a supplement can reduce symptoms by 31 percent and wheezing by 40 percent.
Also, go easy on the alcohol: Two drinks a day makes you more likely to have year-round allergies. And cutting down may reduce your symptoms. It’s worth a try!
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Submit your health questions at www.doctoroz.com.