8 Ways to Strengthen Your Child's Immune System
Mild childhood illnesses are all part of growing up. It’s normal for a child to get sick with mild illnesses like colds, sore throat, fever, diarrhea, or ear infections. Children get an average of six to eight colds a year and possibly more if they attend daycare, according to Stanford Children’s Health.
When our child is sick, we get worried, frustrated, or stressed. But here’s a comforting fact for us parents: New antibodies are developed each time our child gets sick. Most illnesses they contract as young kids help with the development of their immune system.
But that doesn’t mean we should just sit back and relax when it comes to our child’s health, especially in the time of pandemic. We need to take a proactive approach to protecting our child’s health and well-being. Boosting their immune system tops the list of the ways to keep them healthy.
How to Boost Your Child’s Immune System
1. Feed your child fresh and healthy food.
Fresh food here means less processed and packaged foods. Focus on giving your child more whole foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, eggs, and poultry. If your child is a picky eater and refuses a certain type of food, keep on trying. Involve the child in meal-planning or even cooking. Offer new flavors and foods every week. Variety is key.
2. Keep them active.
Children can stay active indoors, even with limited space. Have a fun family workout. There are exercises that you and your kids can follow on YouTube. Learn dance steps or play freeze dance. Jump ropes, trampolines, and hula-hoops are great exercise toys for kids that you can do indoors or in your backyard. For added protection, let them wear kids’ knee and elbow pads indoors while they’re playing.
3. Make sure they get enough sleep.
Toddlers need 11 to 14 hours of sleep per day and children from five to 10 years old need 10 to 11 hours. This includes naps. To help your child sleep better, Harvard Health recommends setting bedtime routines earlier (at least 30 minutes before they need to fall asleep) and shutting off screens. Blue light from screens make it harder for children to fall asleep because they wake up the brain. Be consistent with the sleep hours even on weekends.
4. Maintain a healthy gut.
The friendly bacteria in our gut not only help us with digestion, but it also protects us from bacteria and viruses. Give your child foods with probiotics like yogurt and peas. You can also consider giving him probiotic supplements. Ask your child’s pediatrician for recommendations.
5. Give supplements.
The best vitamins to support your child’s immune system are vitamins C, D, and zinc. You can ask your child’s pediatrician about the best supplements to give to your child. But remember, supplements are not meant to replace a healthy diet, so do your best to feed him foods that are rich in these nutrients. Here are some sources:
Vitamin C: papaya, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, lemon, cantaloupe, mango, kiwi, tomato juice, guava
Vitamin D: egg yolks, mushrooms, oily fish, and vitamin D-fortified foods like cow’s milk or breakfast cereals.
Zinc: meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy, eggs, chicken
Check for allergies before giving them any of these foods.
6. Keep allergies under control.
Ongoing allergies can weaken your child’s immune system. Some can even progress to respiratory infections. Avoid known allergens or consult your child’s doctor on how to avoid and manage allergic symptoms.
7. Stay hydrated.
Water helps ward off infections like flu or urinary tract infections. As part of a healthy diet, kids need to drink at least five glasses per day to stay hydrated.