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Boost Your Child’s Immune System

By Ashish Thomas
What can you do to protect your child from the endless array of germs and viruses he’s exposed to every day? Unfortunately, in some ways, getting sick when you’re a kid is simply part of the job description as we all enter this world with an inexperienced immune system. Getting sick is never fun, no matter what age, but there are some ways to fight illness and keep your child’s immune system strong.

Offer more fruits and vegetables
Fruits and veggies are high in vitamin C and antioxidants, and both of these natural nutrients boost the immune system. Antioxidants travel through the bloodstream and protect tissue from damage. They are like the anti-rust protection in an automobile, helping reduce the wear and tear on the engine. The less wear and tear on the body, the less susceptible it is to infection. Good immune-boosting fruits include strawberries, papaya, cantaloupe, guava, pink grapefruit, and blueberries. Good veggies are tomatoes, broccoli, and sweet potatoes, as well as soy
products.

Keep your child lean
Obesity can depress the immune system by interfering with the ability of white blood cells to produce antibodies. Research shows that overweight babies get twice as many infections as lean babies.

Boost sleep time
Studies of adults show that sleep deprivation can make you more susceptible to illness by reducing natural killer cells, immune-system weapons that attack microbes and cancer cells. Children in day care are particularly at risk for sleep deprivation because all the activity can make it difficult for them to nap. How much sleep do kids need? A newborn may need up to 18 hours of crib time a day, toddlers require 12 to 13 hours, and preschoolers need about 10 hours. If your child can’t or won’t take naps during the day, try to put her to bed earlier.

Good Germ Exposure
Yes, you read right, not all germs and bacteria are bad for you! Some exposure to germs can help build a child’s immunity and protect them from illness. As homes become cleaner and more sterile, the immune system doesn’t have to work as hard to defend the body against common bacterial infections—and this may have led to an unintended consequence: allergies. Allow your kids to be kids, get dirty outside and play with friends—and don’t worry incessantly about germs.

How does a child’s immune system differ from that of an adult?
When a baby is born, it does not have a full complement of immune arsenal. In the womb, the infant relies on the mother’s immune system, and it takes time after its exposure to the external environment for its own immune system to fully develop.

What can parents do to give kids the best immune system boost possible?
A healthy diet is essential. This includes (as much as possible) providing them with a variety of wholegrain cereals such as oats, brown rice, wholemeal bread, corn and wholemeal pasta; a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables such as those high in vitamin C like broccoli, zucchini, capsicum, citrus fruits and strawberries; good protein foods like eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds, red meat, chicken and fish; and healthy fats such as those found in oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds and olive oil. Sometimes, especially when kids are fussy eaters, it can be difficult to ensure that your child has all their nutritional requirements met through diet alone. Supplementation may be necessary at these times, especially during winter when a child is more likely to get an infection.

Give your kids plenty of the following to keep them happy and healthy

  • Exercise
  • Stress relief
  • Lots of fun and laughter
  • Stability and routine with regular sleep and meal times
  • Healthy weight maintenance
  • Lots of variety in daily activity
  • Lots of fresh air and sunshine
  • Participation in sport
  • Limited time in front of the TV and computer games and any other sedentary activities

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