How To Support Your Child's Immune System
  /   Dr. John Snow

How To Support Your Child's Immune System

 The development of the immune system in children is gradual. The immune system constantly matures in babies and children as it encounters unknown viruses and infections, and experts believe that the immune system is much more adept at fighting off infections by age eight.

While it can be frustrating to see your child constantly fall ill with colds and bugs, developing the body’s defenses takes time. A robust immune system in childhood helps lay the foundation for good health throughout life. While there’s no guaranteed way to prevent your child from getting sick, healthy habits like good hygiene, adequate sleep, and a healthy diet can help to support proper immune function. Let’s talk about strengthening kids’ immune systems and supporting their natural defense systems. 

The Immune System

The immune system is the body’s amazing defense network. It’s a complex army of organs, cells, and proteins that work together to ward off invaders (germs, viruses, fungi) to keep you healthy and to prevent sickness. Your child’s immune system has a few key functions: 

  • Identifying threats: The immune system can recognize the difference between healthy body tissues and foreign invaders.  
  • Building defenses: The immune system springs into action when a threat is detected. It produces antibodies (special proteins) to neutralize specific pathogens (disease-causing germs). It also creates immune cells like white blood cells that attack and destroy invaders.
  • Remembering the enemy: The immune system has a remarkable memory. Once it encounters a germ, it stores information about it. This allows for a quicker and stronger response if the same germ tries to invade again. 
  • Healing and repair: The immune system also plays a role in healing wounds and fighting inflammation. It helps clear out damaged cells and debris, promoting tissue repair and recovery.

The immune system functions through two major pathways: innate immunity and adaptive immunity. You're born with innate immunity which includes skin, mucous membranes, inflammatory responses, and general immune cells that attack invaders. Adaptive immunity develops over time as you’re exposed to different germs. 

Children’s immune systems typically rely more heavily on their adaptive immunity in the early years as they have limited exposure to germs. There are several theories as to why children tend to experience milder COVID-19 cases than adults, including: 

  • Stronger reliance on innate immunity and prior immunity 
  • Less-developed adaptive immunity 

It’s completely normal and inevitable for children to get colds and coughs. On average, kids catch between 8-10 colds per year before two years old. That may sound like a lot, but it is normal. During this time, your child is coming into contact with a lot of cold viruses for the first time in their life. 

  • Newborn: Protected by antibodies received from mom before birth and through breast milk. This passive immunity fades within a few months.
  • 6 months to 2 years: Increased vulnerability as maternal antibodies disappear, and the child's own immune system is still developing. Frequent illnesses are common as they encounter new germs.
  • 2-8 years: The immune system actively builds defenses by facing viruses and bacteria. While illnesses might still be frequent, they hopefully become less severe.
  • By age 8: The immune system is considered mature and more adept at fighting off infections.

Healthy habits help provide your child with the building blocks for a robust immune system, creating an environment where it can thrive. There are ways to boost a child's immune system to support proper function:

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for bone health, muscle, and nerve function. But it also plays a vital role in helping the immune system fight bacteria and viruses. Some studies suggest that vitamin D deficiency may be linked to a weakened immune response, making the individual more susceptible to infections. 

You can get vitamin D through sun exposure or through foods like oily fish, eggs, and fortified products. Your diet and where you live can influence your vitamin D intake. For example, people with limited sun exposure may struggle to get enough vitamin D from food alone, so could benefit from a daily vitamin D supplement, especially during autumn and winter. 

Some studies suggest that all children in the first year of life should receive vitamin D supplementation. Factors like geographical location, age, skin, and family habits can greatly affect vitamin D levels. 

As always, if you’re considering kids vitamins for the immune system or any supplement, speak to your child’s doctor. 

Fill Up on Fruit & Veg

Encouraging your little one to fill up on fruit and veg is another crucial healthy habit to build for their immune system. There are several reasons why a healthy serving of fruit and vegetables can help.

Packed with some of the best vitamins for kids' immune systems, fruits and veggies are nutritional powerhouses full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. All these micronutrients play a vital role in supporting different immune system elements. Vitamins A, C, and E act as antioxidants, protecting the immune system from damage. Minerals like zinc and iron are crucial for immune function, too. 

Research indicates just how important nutrition is for the immune system during the early years, highlighting the need for a healthy and balanced approach to nutrition in children. 

Try to encourage a love of fruit and vegetables from a young age to develop healthy eating habits. Let your little one pick out their favorite veggies at the grocery store and make it fun.  


Another key pillar of a healthy immune system is getting a good night’s sleep. During sleep, the body isn’t just resting; it’s repairing and restoring itself, including the immune system. Here’s why your child needs to get enough sleep: 

A lack of sleep may affect your immune system, with people who don’t get enough sleep potentially being more susceptible to getting sick after the initial virus exposure. 

The American Academy of Sleep recommends your child should get the following amount of sleep: 

  • 4-12 months: 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
  • 1-2 years: 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
  • 3-5 years: 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
  • 6-12 years: 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours
  • 13-18 years: 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours

If you’re struggling with bedtime, here are some tips to help get your child to sleep

  • Have a consistent bedtime routine
  • Wind down with relaxing activities 30 minutes before bed 
  • Make the bedroom dark, comfortable, and quiet 
  • Limit screen time before bed 

Steer Clear of Unnecessary Antibiotics

While necessary for fighting certain infections, antibiotics don’t differentiate between bad and good bacteria in the gut. So, unnecessary use of antibiotics can disrupt the beneficial balance of the gut microbiome, potentially weakening the immune system. 

Antibiotics are powerful medicines, but they are not always the answer. In some cases, they may not be necessary:

  • Viral infections like colds, flu, and most coughs 
  • Mild bacterial infections that improve on their own 
  • Symptoms like a runny nose or sore throat  

Those pesky sniffles and coughs are signs of the body’s natural response to fight off an invader or infection. Coughs help clear the airways, and mucus traps antigens and germs to stop them from spreading further. 

Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern, so it's important to discuss any concerns you have with your child's pediatrician. Based on your child’s needs and specific health concerns, they can determine if antibiotics are necessary. 

Eat Correctly

If you’re looking for an immune system booster for kids, it’s all about encouraging healthy habits and ensuring your child gets all the essential nutrients to support healthy immune function through food as much as possible. 

You already know the importance of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and consuming a rainbow of fresh produce. This helps to tick off key micronutrients that play a role in immune cell function. Protein is also important, especially an amino acid called arginine, commonly found in meats, nuts, and beans. These types of foods also contain zinc, iron, and selenium, which are beneficial for immune cell development. 

Incorporate healthy fats, focus on whole foods, and try to limit processed foods high in sugar and unhealthy fats. Eating lots of real, whole foods naturally includes plenty of vitamins for kids’ immune systems and overall health. 

Top Up With a Supplement

We know that even with all the best intentions, children can be fussy eaters. One week, they love their veggies; the next, it’s the worst, and they won’t take another bite. While a food-first approach is always best, a daily supplement and probiotic for kids can help to fill nutritional gaps and promote healthy gut bacteria, supporting immune function. 

Hiya's Daily Multivitamin offers 15+ essential vitamins and minerals in a delicious, chewable form. Plus, it includes a blend of 12 fruits and veggies to help fill common nutritional gaps. 

Worried about your picky eater's gut health? Hiya's Daily Probiotic is a supercharged chewable with 10 billion live cultures, including from three of the most clinically-researched probiotic strains for children — all known to help support childhood immune systems, digestion, and gut health among kids.

Good Hygiene

Good hygiene can help ward off unwanted germs and bugs. While having a clean child is a dream, getting a bit dirty while playing isn’t entirely harmful. Studies suggest that exposure to various germs in early life may strengthen their immune system. By practicing good hygiene habits, you can help to avoid harmful pathogens for the whole family.

Good hygiene habits can include: 

  • Regular hand washing (especially after using the bathroom and before eating) 
  • Carry a child-friendly hand sanitizer for on-the-go hygiene 
  • Teach your child to cough or sneeze into their elbow 
  • Encourage them not to touch their face with unwashed hands

Reduce Sugar Intake

We already know that parents are concerned about high-sugar diets for several reasons, like dental health and hyperactivity. However, growing evidence suggests a link between high sugar intake and a weakened immune system. 

Sugar may affect the healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, which plays a crucial role in immune function. Research suggests high sugar intake disrupts the intestinal barrier, increasing gut permeability and causing gut microbiota dysbiosis. This may impact immune function and increase infection susceptibility. 

Here are some strategies to help reduce sugar in your child’s diet: 

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages are a big culprit of excess sugar in the diet so try to swap out soda or high-sugar fruit juices for low-sugar options. 
  • Try to limit foods like candy, chocolate, and cakes. 
  • Focus on including whole, real foods in your child’s meals. 
  • Lead by example and make healthier food choices as a family. 

Also, watch out for kids' supplements, as they can contain added sugar and unnecessary junk. Hiya’s Kids Daily Multivitamin and Kids Daily Probiotic supplements are made with zero added sugar.

Nurturing Your Child's Immune Strength

Raising healthy and resilient children is a top priority for every parent. By encouraging healthy habits, you're laying a strong foundation for their immune system. A healthy lifestyle isn't just about avoiding illness; it's about empowering your child to thrive throughout life. So embrace these habits as a family and make healthy choices fun and engaging for your child. For a little extra help, a daily multivitamin and probiotic might be right for your child.


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