It’s no secret that we all want what is best for our children—and that includes a healthy and happy childhood. But your child getting the cold or flu (or worse!) is pretty much a fact of life, and that is okay.
Getting sick as a child is all part of the gig and it is okay if their immune system is not able to fight off all the bad germs that come their way. When a child is born, their immune system is extremely inexperienced when it comes to having to cope with the mass influx of germs and viruses that come their way daily. Did you know that pediatricians say that a child getting six to eight colds, flu or ear infections per year is actually normal?
One of the main ways in which your child’s immune system will continually grow stronger is by being exposed to enough germs to teach their body how to actually deal with it and fight it off.
So, you might be wondering, how can I boost my child’s immune system?
There are many steps you can take as a parent to help boost your child’s immune system at a low risk of actually compromising its long-term development. It is important to remember that while each has its own unique role to play in boosting your child’s immune system, doing just one as a stand-alone will not be enough.
Finding a way to balance the below eight steps will ultimately lead to your child living a healthy life, thanks to a strong immune system.
Eight Ways to Boost Your Child’s Immune System:
- Give your child lots of fresh fruits and veggies
This means produce such as carrots, green beans, kale, oranges, and strawberries all should all be in their balanced diet. One of the main reasons being, many fruits and veggies contain carotenoids—which is an immunity-boosting phytonutrient that helps a child’s body fight off infection. While 93% of kids don’t, pediatricians recommend that a child has five servings of fruits and veggies per day. (Serving size: toddler = two tablespoons; older than toddler=around 1 cup)
- Make sure your child gets enough sleep
Did you know that children who don’t sleep enough are at higher risk for illnesses? This is because when a child suffers from sleep deprivation, there is an automatic reduction of natural killer cells—which are an important weapon for the immune system to combat all the nasty stuff! So how much sleep does your child need? While your child’s sleep can be broken up throughout the day or all in one go, experts recommend the following:
- Infant: recommended to have at least 16 hours of crib time per day
- Toddler: recommended to have at least 11-14 hours of sleep per day
- Preschool: recommended to have at least 10-13 hours of sleep per day
- Elementary school: 9-10 hours
- Breastfeed your baby
Breast milk contains immunity-enhancing antibodies and white blood cells that will help your child’s immune system warden off all those unwanted germs and viruses. This mostly includes ear infections, allergies, diarrhea, pneumonia, meningitis, and UTIs. Experts recommend that you should try to breast-feed your child for the first six months, but at a minimum, at least two to three months. By doing so, your child’s immunity that they received inside the womb will be supplemented when out in the real world.
- Make them fall in love with exercise
It is a fact—kids who stay active are generally more healthy! When your child is able to exercise, they develop an increased number of natural killer cells to help their immune system fight off anything that comes it’s way. Whether it is swimming, riding a bike, taking a hike, playing soccer, shooting some hoops or simply running around, getting your child into life-long fitness habits is an excellent way to boost their immune system. Plus, it is a great opportunity to do an activity together, giving you more time to bond with your child while creating healthy life habits for both of you.
- Guard your child against germs
Teaching your child good hygiene practice to fight off germs is another way to help boost their immune system, especially during flu season. Take the time to teach them how to properly wash their hands—especially before and after meals, when playing with pets and after going to the bathroom. Teaching good hand-washing hygiene can also be fun—use lots of brightly colored hand towels and scented kid-friendly soaps so that your child looks forward to washing their hands! At the end of the day, the more fun it is, the more likely your child will continually do it.
- Get rid of all second-hand smoke
This one is quite serious. But second-hand smoke puts your child’s immune system in jeopardy, with over 7,000 harmful chemicals it will have to fight off. Your child is also more susceptible to second-hand smoke compared to adults as they have a fast breathing rate. So, if you or someone in the family smokes, stop. Second-hand smoke is one of the biggest health compromises to a child’s immune system and the consequences long-term is not worth the risk.
- Believe in your pediatrician
Seriously, trust your pediatrician and their advice. While it is tempting to want prescription medicine for every single sickness your child battles, it is not the best remedy for keeping their immune system strong long term. Most childhood illnesses are actually caused by viruses, so prescription medicine will not do much. So while it is tempting to force your pediatrician to write a prescription for every cold, flu or sore throat, that prescription medicine will not be helping boost your child’s immune system.
- Consider a daily vitamin
Vitamins are a key ingredient for boosting your child’s immune system. While best consumed naturally through food, there are many outlying factors such as diets, medical conditions or lifestyle that might make it difficult to do so. However, companies like Hiya Health have developed vitamins with kids in mind to help ensure they get their daily dosage of vitamins to protect and boost their immune systems. Whether it is done through natural food or a daily vitamin, these are just a few of the essential vitamins your child will be needing:
- Calcium: Good for the bones and fantastic for long term development, Calcium is one of the most important vitamins for kids! The best part being, that the more calcium your kid can store as they develop, the more prepared they will be to fight off diseases such as osteoporosis when they are in adulthood, as Calcium can be banked in the body for long-term use to support the immune system.
- Vitamin A: Equally important for your kid’s brain development is Vitamin A. Helping with giving them healthy vision and ensuring that their immune system remains strong, Vitamin A is one of the most essential vitamins your child needs.
- Vitamin B12: Did you know that we as humans can not actually produce Vitamin B12 on our own? It is normally sourced from animal products, so if your kid follows a vegetarian or vegan diet, giving them extra Vitamin B12 is definitely not a bad idea. Vitamin B12 will help improve their memory and boost their energy, along with fighting off any of the germs or diseases that come their way.
- Vitamin C: Ah, the good ole’ Vitamin C—we can’t ever really get enough of it. Boosting Vitamin C intake is always one of the first solutions to help your kid conquer the common cold as it is one of the most ideal vitamins for strengthening the immune system. Having enough Vitamin C is one of the most ideal nutrition markers for your kid’s overall health and ensures their body will be able to fight off any nasty germs they might encounter.
- Vitamin D: Good for the bones and the brain, Vitamin D has a big role to play when it comes to your kid’s growth and ability to absorb calcium. But did you know that Vitamin D is found in both dairy products and ultraviolet UVB light? This means that during winter-time, it’s important that your kid gets some extra Vitamin D for that little extra boost to help them get through the day.
Keep in mind that a good vitamin isn’t limited to just these few essentials. A high-quality children's vitamins, like Hiya, also include vitamin B1, B2, B6, folate, vitamin E, B7, iodine, zinc, selenium, and magnesium. At the end of the day, there is a range of ways to boost your child’s immune system. It really comes down to determining the best combination of a healthy diet, exercise, daily routine and even an extra boost from a daily vitamin.