12 Ways to Increase Immunity in Children
- 1. Remember to Breastfeed
- 2. Balanced Diets Are Essential
- 3. Feed Your Child Antioxidant-Rich Foods
- 4. Give Importance to Sleep
- 5. Teach Them to Exercise
- 6. Maintain a Healthy Environment
- 7. Complete Vaccinations
- 8. Avoid Depending on Antibiotics
- 9. Keep Your Child’s Microflora Levels High
- 10. Establish Solid Hygiene Habits
- 11. Help Them Release Stress
- 12. Use Supplements
No method will grant your child immunity from every infection. This is both due to their vulnerable immune systems and the universal presence of disease-causing germs, such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi. While it takes quite a bit of exposure to these pathogens for their immune systems to learn how to fight them off, you can help strengthen your child’s immunity and prevent them from contracting any illness in the first place. Read on to find out how to increase immunity in children.
1. Remember to Breastfeed
Breast milk is essential and contains all the nutrients your baby needs, as well as antibodies and immune cells. Breast milk contains useful bacteria that strengthen the immune system of the child by offsetting the build-up of unwanted organisms in the human body. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to suffer from ENT infections, respiratory diseases, meningitis, allergic reactions, and diarrhoea. Research has shown that nursing for at least six to ten months can even shield your child from future health problems like diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases and some types of cancer.
2. Balanced Diets Are Essential
It is important that your little one gets the required daily amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals to stay healthy. Having a diet consisting of a range of foods, including whole grains, leafy greens, fruits, leguminous seeds, fatty fish, nuts, eggs, and milk, will boost their overall fitness. Citrus fruits, turmeric, garlic, ginger, etc., are some other items that help shield the immunity.
However, feeding them healthy food is not enough. Ensure that they avoid processed foods like cereals, white bread, soft drinks and pastries as they contain preservatives and additives. These substances can irritate your child’s intestinal lining, forcing their immune system to focus on solving this issue rather than on defending against pathogens. Studies have shown that refined sugar tends to suppress the immune system by lowering the white blood cell levels, so limit their sugar intake as well.
3. Feed Your Child Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Antioxidants such as folic acid, beta-carotene and Vitamins A, C and E are known to fight off a large number of diseases in addition to improving their mood levels, wound healing ability and mental development. Provide ample servings of immunity-boosting foods for kids and babies, such as carrots, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, spinach, capsicum, brinjal and broccoli. Omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts, mustard, soybeans and fish also have protective antioxidant properties.
4. Give Importance to Sleep
There is extensive research that shows lack of sleep can have a severe impact on the baby’s health by reducing the number of pathogen-killing immune cells. If your child is a newborn, they need at least eighteen hours of sleep a day, while toddlers can do with around twelve, and kindergarteners require at least ten. Fix a regular schedule since the quality of sleep is as important as the duration. Avoid any light in their rooms, and keep them away from electronic screens like phones and tablets.
5. Teach Them to Exercise
Mild cardio exercises have been known to promote the growth of white blood cells. Encourage them to go out and play, even if it is just running, walking or cycling. You could also enrol them in swimming and other sports classes.
6. Maintain a Healthy Environment
If you smoke, quit immediately. Secondhand smoke contains toxic chemicals and can affect your child’s immunity by killing immune cells. It raises the likelihood of your child contracting respiratory disorders like asthma or bronchial inflammation. Ensure that your child stays away from polluted areas, as toxic fumes from vehicles, burning garbage and so on can impact their health. Replace all your home care products like cleaners, detergents and pesticides with child-friendly versions, if available.
7. Complete Vaccinations
Never forget to vaccinate your child. Young children are especially susceptible to a variety of diseases, such as measles, tuberculosis, whooping cough, chicken pox, mumps, HPV, tetanus, diphtheria and so on. Vaccinations begin from birth and go on for two more years, following which booster shots are necessary to keep your child’s immunity up to date.
8. Avoid Depending on Antibiotics
While vaccinations are not negotiable, stay away from unnecessary antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics are only a means to cure your child’s infections, not a perennial shield against pathogens. Giving your child antibiotics every time can make them resistant to the drug itself. An important point to note is that most infections children experience is viral and cannot be cured by antibiotics. So do not insist your paediatrician prescribe them for every little sniffle.
9. Keep Your Child’s Microflora Levels High
Everyone has a family of helpful bacteria living in their guts that help us in digestion and detoxification and even protect us from harmful microbes. If this microflora is destroyed or inactive, your child will be vulnerable to illnesses like diarrhoea and irritable bowel syndrome. It is recommended to feed your child pro-biotic foods, such as those containing lactobacilli and bifidobacterium, like yoghurt, buttermilk and Yakult.
10. Establish Solid Hygiene Habits
Train your child to follow good hygiene so the habits form at an early stage. Make sure they wash their hands before every meal, brush their teeth twice a day, clean themselves thoroughly after visiting the bathroom and take regular showers. Also, teach them not to pick at their wounds or pimples, as it could allow germs to enter and jeopardise their health.
11. Help Them Release Stress
Children get more stressed in challenging situations than adults do, making their bodies generate stress hormones like cortisol. This leads to a drop in the immune system quality. Allow your child to play or relax if they seem tired or disinterested in their usual activities. The world might be fast-paced, but you don’t have to let your kids develop anxiety and tension just to keep up with everyone else.
12. Use Supplements
There is no real need to use nutritional supplements if your child can get all they need from their diet. However, they are sometimes used to boost your kid’s immunity if their nutritional intake is lacking. For example, the required daily amounts of Vitamin D, Vitamin B-complex, zinc, and essential fatty acids are easier to take in the form of tablets or tonics and just as efficient. Don’t forget to consult with your paediatrician before you put your child on any medication.
These tips are meant to support your child’s immune system, but more as guidelines than hard rules. Always consult your doctor before making a change in your child’s diet, sleeping schedule or exercise regime. In time, your child’s immune system will be as healthy and efficient as your own.
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