It seems like everyone is talking about the immune system these days. Despite the fact that people are only really starting to recognize its importance because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been and always will be extremely important. Many parents are now looking to take extra steps to help boost their child’s immune system to keep them safe from harmful illnesses like the coronavirus, and the he good news is that there are many steps you can take to get your child the immune-boosting vitamins they need to keep them growing strong and healthy.
What is the Immune System?
The immune system is the body’s defense system against all kinds of harmful germs and bacteria that can cause illness. Whether you realize it or not, you encounter germs all the time, and your immune system is constantly fighting off these germs to help keep you healthy. The immune system really is the unsung hero of the body. The amount of times our immune systems have protected us from harm is countless, yet we always tend to complain whenever something like the flu slips through!
Children’s immune systems are especially vulnerable because they are less experienced than an adult system. This is because your body gets quicker and more effective at fighting germs the more it encounters them. When you gain immunity, you are less likely to catch that same illness again, and you may not catch the illness again at all in some cases, like for chickenpox. But how exactly does the body learn how to identify potentially harmful invaders and fight them off time and time again?
How Does the Immune System Work?
There are so many different moving parts that make up the immune system--it’s pretty amazing how each part plays a key role in keeping us safe and healthy from harmful germs. Here are the different parts of the immune system and how they function together as a whole:
- Skin – Your skin is actually your body’s biggest organ, and believe it or not, plays an important role within the immune system! This is because your skin is the outermost layer of your body and thus can help keep out germs thanks to glands within your skin that secrete naturally defensive chemicals. However, when your skin is damaged, you are effectively breaking down part of the wall put up by your skin and allowing a gap for germs and bacteria to enter your body. That’s why you need to be careful and avoid any breaks in your skin from things like cuts or scrapes. If you do get a cut (and let’s face it – it’s inevitable when it comes to kids), make sure to keep it clean and covered with a bandage to help prevent infection and make sure it heals properly.
- Nose, eyes, and mouth – Another way for germs to potentially enter your body are through your nose, eyes, and mouth. This is because all of these regions provide a direct opening into your body. The good news is that you have mucous membranes within your body that are able to trap or break down a lot of the germs and bacteria that may get into these areas. Still, it’s important to avoid touching your nose, eyes, or mouth unnecessarily whenever possible, especially if you haven’t recently washed your hands.
- Lymphatic system – You may have heard that “swollen lymph nodes” on your neck can be a sign of illness like the flu; this is actually a sign that your immune system is doing its job! The body’s lymphatic system consists of organs including the tonsils, spleen, lymph nodes, and a fluid called lymph that transports white blood cells all around the body. When a potentially harmful germ or bacteria is found in the lymph, it is transported to lymph nodes in order to be destroyed.
- White blood cells – One of the most important players in the immunity game are white blood cells. You have probably heard of white blood cells before, but did you know that there are several different types of them that all do different things? The body really is a complex masterpiece!
- Lymphocytes: These are the key players within the immune system. Consisting of T cells and B cells, these cells are constantly on the lookout for invaders. When they encounter anything potentially harmful, they can produce antibodies in order to kill them, and can also help signal other white blood cells to take action
- Neutrophils: The job of these cells is to constantly patrol the body for foreign substances that don’t belong, often being the first cells on-site to begin attacking invaders.
- Macrophages: These cells do a great job of defense by actually engulfing invaders to destroy them. They are also helpful in the clean-up of debris!
How Do Vitamins Come Into Play?
Every human being needs vitamins and minerals in order to survive. Your body is amazing in so many ways, however there are some things that it can’t do on its own! Vitamins contain things that the body needs in order to function but can’t produce, so it has to obtain them from outside sources. Each vitamin has a unique makeup and function within the body, and some are especially vital to immune support.
Which Specific Vitamins Can Be Immune Boosting?
There are dozens of essential vitamins and minerals that adults and kids need to stay as strong and healthy as possible. Here are some of the best immune-boosting vitamins for children:
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is the immune-boosting vitamin that we’ve all heard about – and for good reason! Studies have shown that sufficient amounts of Vitamin C can help reduce the severity and length of upper respiratory tract infections. This is because Vitamin C is an antioxidant that supports the immune cells by helping to control and manage sick cells. Vitamin C is found in a variety of citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli; Vitamin C is also available in supplements.
- Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 help to promote biochemical reactions within your immune system by partnering with enzymes. It also helps to produce more antibodies when needed, and helps immune cells communicate and work together effectively. Vitamin B6 is found in food sources like green veggies, chickpeas, chicken, and fish.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A is very important when it comes to producing effective mucous – an important part of the immune system. It can also help control inflammation that may make it harder for white blood cells to do their job of fighting off invaders. Vitamin A is found in food like squash, carrots, and kale.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can help prevent damage to cells and keep them in tip-top shape so that they are able to effectively fight off infections. It’s also necessary for healthy skin, which as we have already learned is the first line of defense when it comes to your immune system! Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds, broccoli, and spinach.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a key part of helping your white blood cells fight off infections by helping to decrease inflammation--Vitamin D may also help fight off upper respiratory tract infections because of this!. Vitamin D comes from sunlight and is found in food items like milk, mushrooms, fish, and oranges.
How Can You Further Boost Immunity?
You now know just how important the immune system is to keep the body healthy, but what are some actual steps that you can take in order to boost your child’s immunity and help prevent nasty illnesses like colds, the seasonal flu, and stomach bugs?
- The first and probably the easiest thing that you can do to boost your child’s immunity is to emphasize good hygiene practices. We all know that kids don’t necessarily do this on their own, so you may need to stay involved until they learn to get in the habit of doing it themselves. Make sure to teach your child how to properly wash their hands, and encourage them to do it often to avoid spreading germs to other areas and promote their own immune health.
- Another thing that you can do to help boost your child’s immunity is to get them on a good sleep schedule. Getting enough sleep is vital for a functioning immune system, and it’s been shown that children need even more sleep than adults in order to stay healthy, ranging from 9-12 hours per night depending on your child’s age.
- Exercise is another immune booster that you can implement into your child’s daily routine. Making sure that they get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day as part of a healthy lifestyle is a great step towards a strong immune system.
- Finally, the last thing that you can do to boost your child’s immunity is to provide them with a vitamin supplement. That way, you don’t have to worry about them getting everything they need from food alone, especially since it can be challenging to achieve a balanced diet with a picky eater.
- When it comes to vitamins for kids, look for a daily multivitamin supplement that is specially made for kids. Companies like Hiya have partnered with scientists, dietitians, healthcare providers, and pediatricians to formulate effective, sugar-free, and organic chewable children's vitamins that can help their immune systems develop properly and stay strong, along with the rest of their growing bodies and brains.
*The FDA plays a specific role in regulating nutraceuticals and for all companies requires the following disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.