Facebook Twitter instagram Youtube

Myth Buster: If Immunity is Strong, Children will Not Fall Sick

Even after a child develops a strong immunity, their immune system is relatively immature in childhood and only evolves during a lifetime of exposure to multiple environmental toxins and microbial pathogens via young and mature adulthood, only to decline in old age. This happens for several reasons. Kids are continuously growing, and they consume different kinds of food, and drinks and breathe more air than adults do. This makes them vulnerable to many different infections. A child is born with an immature, innate, and adaptive immune system, which matures and develops strong memories of these encounters as he or she grows. Therefore, they constantly change and learn from different types of infections, autoimmune diseases, and malignancies.


Good immunity is the first line of defense against illnesses or allergens and can cause fewer severe episodes of illness with faster recovery. However, a few bouts of illness with local drugs ensure active immunity building.


Early interventions for building good immunity:

●     Breastfeeding
●     Up-to-date vaccination
●     Balanced diet
●     Dietary, natural boosters-probiotics, iron, calcium, and sunlight
●     Hand washing and masks


What is a balanced diet?

●     Exclusive breastfeeding 0-6months
●     Complementary feeding: The rainbow color of veg/fruits (antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals) and good fat such as eggs/ghee/dairy nuts (ADEK, DHA, EHA)
●      Fish, Chicken/egg contains protein
●      Cereals/legumes are complex carbs for energy sources
●      Fortified foods such as dairy and cereals


Dietary immuno-boosters

●     Vitamin C fruits such as citrus and amla contain antioxidants
●     Turmeric acts as an anti-inflammatory
●     Leafy vegetables, jaggery, and beans contain iron
●     Ragi or tofu contains Calcium
●     Zinc

Types of Immunity:

Immunity to a disease is determined by the presence of antibodies generated by the body against that disease. Antibodies are proteins that are chemically built to neutralize or destroy toxins or pathogens. Antibodies are disease-specific which means antibodies produced against one disease will only provide immunity against that and have no effect if he or she is exposed to some other diseases.


There are two types of immunity: active and passive


  • Active Immunity:

Active immunity is developed on exposure to a pathogen, which triggers the immune system to produce specific antibodies against it. Active immunity can be acquired naturally or can be vaccine-induced.

While natural immunity is acquired from exposure to actual disease-causing organisms, vaccine-induced immunity is acquired by administering killed or attenuated forms of the disease organism through vaccination.
In both these cases, our body's immune system will remember it and immediately produce the antibodies needed when it comes into contact with that disease in the future. It is therefore long-lasting, sometimes for a lifetime.


  • Passive Immunity:

Passive immunity is not produced by our body but rather provided by administering ready-made antibodies externally to a disease. Therefore, the body is not capable of developing memories and producing them through our immune system. They only last for a few weeks or months. The advantage of passive immunity is that protection is immediate, whereas active immunity takes time (usually several weeks) to develop.
Some forms of passive immunity are: wearing a protective face mask, and a newborn baby gaining antibodies from its mother through the placenta.


Immunity in childhood:

The young child, even after having strong innate and adaptive immune systems, is at risk of contracting many pathogenic viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Nevertheless, good immunity ensures that he or she has a better chance of fighting and survival.
Pathogenic infections can trigger various symptoms specific to the illnesses suffered by the child or adult. In such cases, a healthy immune system will protect the child from facing the severity of the symptoms while recovering from a disease.
Children also have a developing immune system that is boosted by newer infections, which may even be subclinical, such as influenza, to stimulate or boost immune responses. Generally, the protection offered by the immune response is provided by the production of antibodies and T cells, which help the body remember the encounter. Therefore, most childhood infections are contracted only once, as after that the protection induced remains lifelong.


How to boost immunity in growing children:


Developing a Strong Immune System in Infants:

Mothers should always consider breastfeeding, as babies benefit from exposure to their mother’s immune system. Researchers showed that during their first year of life, breastfed babies are more likely to develop a stronger immune system (especially against lung infections, ear infections, and diarrhea) compared to babies who are fed formula. Mother’s breast milk is filled with several important antibodies, enzymes, fats, and proteins that boost the baby’s immune system.


Teaching good habits to toddlers and kindergarteners:

As a child develops, their minds also develop, so practicing and teaching good hygiene along with other immune-boosting practices, at an early stage may reduce the severity and instances of the child falling sick in the future.


A Holistic Approach to Boosting Immunity:

An approach concerning whole-body (holistic) health and well-being is the best way forward to naturally build a child’s immunity. Here is a list of some of the most important nutrients that you should add to your child’s diet to boost their immunity:

Good nutrition: A balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables along with protein and fats is recommended to maintain a healthy immune system.

Vitamins and minerals can be another essential nutrient to be added to your child’s diet for boosting your immune system. Vitamins such as vitamins A, C, and E and essential fatty acids support the immune system. Additionally, adequate consumption of minerals such as manganese, selenium, zinc, copper, iron, sulfur, magnesium, and germanium should not be ignored while planning a child's nutrition.

Medanta Medical Team
Back to top