Do you feel like your kid is constantly getting sick? Well, that’s likely because a child’s developing immune system makes them more susceptible to illness, especially with frequent exposure to germs at daycares, classrooms, and playgrounds.
But we have good news! From healthy diets to helpful habits, there’s a plethora of proactive measures you can take to help your child fend off common and seasonal illnesses. Drawing from our pediatric care expertise, we offer the following ways to help keep immune systems strong all year long.
Immunity building through diet:
- Eat a rainbow! Colorful whole fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that destroy free radicals responsible for weakening immune systems. (Check out this helpful Better Bites guide to learn more about immunity-boosting foods and how to incorporate them into your child’s diet.)
- Avoid refined sugar and processed foods. Blood shows evidence of diminished immunity within 30 minutes of eating simple sugars like glucose, processed sugar, and fructose, which significantly reduces the white blood cells’ abilities to kill germs for many hours. The best way to steady your children’s blood sugar levels is to feed them as much organic, whole food as possible, incorporating plenty of good fats and protein in every meal and snack. Lucky for us, San Francisco is chock-full of high quality, local organic food sources and services.
- Drink plenty of filtered water with a daily target of half your child’s weight in ounces (30lb child = 15 oz.).
- Bone broths provide rich and easily absorbed mineral content and gelatin. Incorporating broth into your cooking can help support your child’s gut health and overall immunity. Here’s a great resource and recipes for broth.
Safeguard with supplements and vitamins:
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC) can be used to increase glutathione in the respiratory tract. Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant and is used by immune cells for fighting infections. NAC also helps the body to break up mucous.
- Supplementing with Vitamin D3 during the cold and flu season can significantly lower rates of infection. Vitamin D3, among other things, increases the body’s production of cathelicidin, which is an antimicrobial – an agent that kills microorganisms or stops their growth.
- While not shown to prevent colds and flu in particular, omega-3 essential fatty acids from fish oil generally support a healthy intestinal tract and immune system and provide other long-term benefits.
- A daily dose of probiotics helps to boost both the innate and acquired immune responses. Studies have shown a drastic reduction in fever and upper respiratory symptoms in children who took probiotics.
- Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects the body from damage caused by free radicals. (Vitamin C-rich foods: bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, kiwifruit, oranges, papaya, pineapple, and strawberries).
- Zinc is essential for normal functioning of white blood cells. Just 10-15mg of zinc per day can be key in warding off infection. (Zinc-rich foods: beef, cashews, garbanzo beans, lamb, lentils, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, sesame seeds, shrimp, and turkey).
Instill healthy habits:
- Encourage your kids to wash hands frequently, especially before meals. However, avoid using antibacterial soap; it encourages bacterial resistance and is toxic.
- Allow time for regular outside play. Moderate activity can boost macrophages – the kind of white blood cells that “eat up” bacteria and viruses. AND studies claim sunlight to be a natural immunity booster! Click to learn more: Sunlight: Growing Healthy Kids from the Outside In.
- Get enough sleep. Sufficient sleep helps white blood cells to function optimally. Even mild sleep deprivation can increase inflammation in the body, making your child more vulnerable to common, and usually viral, infections.
- Keep stress to a minimum. Emotional stress can lower our defenses and makes us more susceptible to illness. Stress is also known to lower our white blood cells’ abilities to kill germs and can contribute to inflammation that makes us feel sicker. We understand mitigating a child’s stress level can pose a challenge. Our recent post on child behavior offers some good advice on handling your child’s emotional development at every age and stage.
Other Alternative Treatments/Practices:
- Biocidin Throat Spray is an effective herbal treatment for fighting viral and bacterial infections. Spritz the back of the mouth/throat at the first sign of cold symptoms in order to head off developing sore throat, congestion, and cough.
- Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic medicine that not only treats but may also help to prevent influenza infection. It’s safe for use at any age and the contents of one small tube per week can be taken for cold and flu prevention. It can also be used if there is a known viral exposure: simply take the contents of one tube under the tongue as soon as possible after a germy encounter!
- Nasal washes are one of the most preventive things you can do. Irrigate your child’s nasal passages at the end of every day and especially after any exposure (at school, playgroups, on BART/buses/planes, etc.). After a viral exposure, germs need to multiply in the nasal passages for at least 1-2 days before any symptoms develop. Nasal irrigation washes away viral particles before they can take hold and thereby prevents many infections from starting.
A Customized Prevention Plan For Your Child
Prevention is central to our pediatric care approach at GetzWell Pediatrics. Make an appointment with us at our San Francisco offices (415-826-1701) to discuss a customized immune support plan for your child, including specific supplement recommendations.