How to Boost Your Child’s Immune System
The human body’s immune system is made up of certain cells, proteins, tissues, and antibodies that are designed to fight bacteria, germs, and viral infections. While we are constantly exposed to these micro-organisms existing in the air or water, a strong and healthy immune system can defend us against them, while a weaker immune system can make us ill.
A child’s immune system is young and put to test almost every day as he or she closely interacts and plays with other children at school or in the home. For example, it is common to see large groups of children where one or more of them are constantly sneezing or coughing, thus spreading cold or respiratory infections. While we cannot germ-proof our children or stop them from going to school, it is possible to strengthen their immune system so that they don’t catch fall sick very often.
Here are 5 simple ways to boost your child’s immune system:
Breastfeeding your baby for as long as possible is one of the best ways to ensure the development of a strong passive immune system that can last for up to the first year of your child’s life or longer. Apart from the necessary nutrition and essential fatty acids that your baby needs, breastmilk contains the antibodies, or special proteins, required to fight against bacteria, viruses, and allergens.
Encourage them to wash their hands frequently
Certain germs and infections spread the fastest via little hands touching various surfaces at nursery or pre-school on a single day. When these come in contact with food that goes into their mouths, they can fall ill. Therefore, a habit of washing hands with soap frequently is the most effective way to getting rid of them. Encourage your child to wash his or her hands:
- After playtime with friends, or toys at a play centre
- After petting an animal
- After using the toilet
- After a sneeze, a cough, or blowing the nose
- Before taking their snacks or meals
If you happen to be away from a source of clean water, such as during a picnic outdoors or holiday, hand-sanitizer may also be used. If possible, educate your child about how germs spread, so that these habits come naturally to them after a while.
Increase foods that promote immunity
Certain vegetables and fruits such as carrots, green beans, strawberries, papaya, and oranges, as well as green leafy foods, contain natural phytonutrients of carotenoids and Vitamin C. Including any or all of these during different meal times is a healthy way to protect your child against illnesses.
Reduce the intake of sugar in their diet
Recent studies have revealed that too much sugar can reduce a person’s white blood cell count. These cells fight infection and destroy germs, and therefore, are a primary indicator of a healthy immune system. A child having lots of sugar, for example, at a birthday party or similar event where he or she consumes a lot of sweets, has a lower resistance to colds and flu. Where possible, sugar may be replaced by natural sweeteners found in fruits, dates, jaggery, etc.
Ensure that your child is getting enough sleep
The amount of sleep that a child requires varies from newborns, who need at least 18 hours of sleep in a day, to toddlers (12 to 13 hours), or children of the pre-school age (10 hours). Sleep deprivation in young children may hinder the body’s natural process to regenerate and renew itself each day. Encourage your child to also engage in periods of ‘quiet time’ with some light reading, yoga or meditation during an otherwise active day of play. This helps them calm down especially if they are over-scheduled or hyperactive. A habit of going to bed early is also beneficial.
Fresh air, massage, and exercise, laughter and attention are other factors that can help your child’s immune system thrive.
While you encourage your child with all the right habits to a healthy mind and body, remember also that catching a fever or a cold is also the body’s natural way to fight off germs and infection. During this time, consider boosting your child’s immune systems with adequate rest, and herbs and supplements available at hand. Do take him or her to the doctor if the illness persists or gets worse.
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