10 simple ways to boost your child’s immune system
By following these simple steps, you will streng then your child’s defenses against illness, so they can spend more time enjoying life and less time feeling sick.
Breast milk is the best immune boosting and protecting food source for infants. It contains all the nutrients the immune system needs, but what makes it irreplaceable are the antibodies and immune proteins it contains. The World Health Organization recommends that breast milk is the exclusive (or at least primary) food source in the first 4-6 months of life. As a primary source, breastfeeding significantly reduces the amount of infections and allergies the child will have.
By socialising at daycare with other children, the immune system becomes stronger. While they may get more runny noses and coughs, their exposure to germs while the immune system is developing, allows the body to build up a memory of how to combat infections. By the age of 5, they will have better defenses against infections and allergies than children who did not go to daycare and were not exposed to germs.
Immunization of your child is vital to protect them against life-threatening diseases. The vaccine usually contains parts of a virus, or a form that is not able to generate the disease. This causes the body to create antibodies against the virus parts, so later when the child is exposed to the actual disease-causing virus, the antibodies created will be able to eliminate the virus quickly. It is possible that the vaccine may cause reactions such as fevers and swelling, but these are only minor in comparison to the protection against fatal diseases.
- Avoid smoke
The toxins in passive smoke are very harmful to the babies developing organs, including those of the immune system. Passive smoking increases the risk of childhood asthma, cancers, heart problems and cot death. So whether you, a friend, or even a stranger in the street is smoking, help reduce your child’s exposure to smoking as much as you can, particularly in their first year.
A global trend is that young children are becoming less active. Exercise is essential for a strong immune system by maintaining a healthy circulation and promoting general well-being throughout the body. So when possible, turn off the TV, dance around the room with them or have a kick of the footy outside.
- Healthy Diet
Introducing healthy options into their diet early is an excellent way to boost their immune system. Fruits and vegetables are the best food source of essential vitamins and minerals needed for a developing immune system but they also contain anti-oxidants which protect the cells during infections. To boost the immune system make sure your child has at least a handful of different fruit and vegetables in a variety of colours every day.
During sleep, the body is able to produce more antibodies and hormones that help fight off infections. If your child is developing poor sleeping habits they might suffer from recurrent and prolonged infections as the body struggles to recover. To assist your child’s healthy sleeping patterns, develop bedtime routines (eg. a glass of milk, a bath or bedtime stories) to help them relax and prepare for a good night’s sleep.
- Furry Friend
Children, whose families own a pet, have shown a reduced rate of infections, illness and allergies (including asthma) than those children whose families do not own pets. This is because they are exposed to more germs, bugs and potential allergens while the immune system is developing, making it stronger. If you don’t own a pet, that’s ok, simply taking them to visit petting zoos and farms or a friend who owns a pet. It will still be beneficial.
- Wash Hands
A common theme in these tips is exposing your child to germs and bugs as the immune system develops. However, exposure to too many germs can lead to serious illnesses. So it is ok for them to be exposed to germs whilst playing outside with other children and pets, as long as they are washing their hands afterwards. Encourage your children to wash their hands before eating and after they use the toilet. A useful tip is washing your hands with them, this allows you to make sure they can do it properly and shows them that everyone has to do it. Proper disinfection of food preparation, eating and inside play areas is also important.
Like many physiological systems, the immune system has a strong link to emotions. If they are stressed, scared or upset it triggers reactions that compromise the strength of the immune system. Thus it is important (not just when they are sick) to nurture and comfort your children. The loving hugs from mum and dad can provide a boost to the immune system by promoting a general well-being in the body and the production of hormones that aid the immune response. The reassurance from parents that everything is ok, will aid their recovery.