7 Ways to Support Your Child's Immune Health
If your child’s nose is running faster than their legs, you’re not alone. While the common cold seems inevitable when you’re a child, there are smart steps you can both take to keep your kids fighting fit against runny noses, colds and coughs, so they can be back out exploring in no time.
Safeguard Against Germs
Encouraging your kids to wash their hands is really important as it can help reduce the spread of unwanted germs and bacteria. Ensure your kids are washing their hands with soap before and after every meal, and make sure you wipe down any surfaces in common areas.
Sleep It Off
The benefits and importance of regular and sufficient sleep can't be stressed enough. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can make you more susceptible to illness by reducing natural killer cells; our immune system’s weapons against unwanted germs.
Just how much is enough sleep? Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, children between the ages 1-13 need anywhere from 11-14 hours per night. Naps during the day are also an excellent time for your little explorer to catch up on sleep.
Practise Mindfulness, and Have Some Fun, Too
Stress can have a detrimental impact on the body and immune system. While your little explorers’ life might not seem stressful, they are incredibly intuitive creatures and can pick up on our moods.
When children get stressed, their cortisol and adrenaline levels rise. Chronic elevation of stress hormones can lower immune system responses, leaving kids more susceptible to getting sick. Taking slow deep breaths and movement is a great way to keep stress down.
Getting out in the sunshine can help top up levels of Vitamin D. The body takes in sunlight using cholesterol, and converts it to a usable form of vitamin D. As it turns out, every single cell in your body requires vitamin D, especially your immune system. Research shows that vitamin D deficiency may lead to a weakened immune system, as vitamin D modulates immune system cells.
Remember to have fun and get outside in the fresh air; sometimes adults need a little bit of play time too. Prioritise relaxation time together with your little one and you’ll both be feeling the benefits.
Along with smelling amazing, essential oils such as eucalyptus and oregano have been shown to have antibacterial and immune-modulating properties. By simply diffusing these oils in your home, you can help your entire family’s immune system.
Get Moving as A Family
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that exercise is good for your immune system. It naturally increases the number of ‘natural killer cells’ which protect your body against germs in adults, having the same benefit in children too.
Regular exercise can also help build healthy lifelong habits. Become a healthy role model by exercising with your little explorer, rather than urging them to go outside and play by themselves. Activities that work well as a family include riding, hiking, incline skating, basketball, and tennis.
It All Starts in Your Gut
In every stomach lives a complex community of microorganisms called gut microbiota. They help protect your digestive tract and play an important role in supporting your immune system.
If this microbiota is thrown off balance, it’s like you’ve just left the front door open to any cold or illness wanting to come inside, leading to a compromised immune system.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to eat for good gut health, such as:
- Plant foods, which are rich in fibre and wonderful gut supporters
- Fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut
- Prebiotic-rich food such as legumes and lentils
Feed a Healthy Immune System
A balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables, along with limiting artificial additives and sugars, is essential for fuelling any immune system, big or small. Although it can be hard at times to fit these into your little one's diet, it’s worth the effort to work with your little explorer’s taste buds and find fruit or vegetables they enjoy.
 Sassi F et al. Nutrients 2018;10:1656-69