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How to keep your child’s immune system in tip-top shape

Boosting your child’s immune system helps their body to fight diseases and keeps bacteria and viruses at bay.

2021 is almost over and we’re sure you’ll agree: this year, parents have been paying much more attention to their children’s immune systems than we have in the past.

The immune system helps protect the body from harmful pathogens and other environmental risks. A strong immune system gives your child a fighting chance at beating off bugs, whether it’s a simple bout of sniffles or something more serious.

These tips can help boost your child’s immune system and improve their chances of staying healthy.

Ensure your child gets enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is super important for young people, both in terms of their brain development, and in terms of keeping their immune systems strong. Sleep deprivation has been shown to reduce the release of proteins in your child’s body called cytokines, and these are what your child’s body needs to fight infection or inflammation. How much sleep does a kid need? According to experts, school-aged children (5 to 12 years old) need nine to 12 hours of sleep each night, but many children get only seven to eight hours per night – sometimes even less.

Keep them exercising

Some evidence suggests that moderate-to-high levels of physical activity are associated with a lower incidence of infection and illness in children. If your child doesn’t like to run around the block with you, then get them riding bikes, or kicking a ball on an open field nearby.

Limit germ spread

We’re sure your children have never washed their hands more than they have this year, and that’s one positive thing to come out of 2021 – children learning to be more hygienic.  While there’s no evidence that a short-term boost in hand-washing and cleaning will reduce your child’s body’s immune function, there is proof that handwashing can reduce your child’s risk of contracting and spreading viruses and bacteria.

Reduce stress

This is easier said than done – the world is a very stressful place right now, and your children are no doubt dealing with a lot of change. Communication is key, bearing in mind that any unusual behaviour on their part may not be because they are intentionally being naughty, but more because they are unable to articulate their anxieties. Encourage them to speak about why they’re sad (they miss their friends, they miss playing rugby, etc.), and also suggest some mindfulness or children’s meditation exercises – as these will give them useful tools to deal with their stressors.

Stop exposure to second-hand smoke

This comes down to you Mom or Dad! If you’re a smoker, you need to try and stop smoking, but if you can’t, then you need to limit your children’s exposure to second-hand smoke. Cigarette smoke irritates important cells in the body and unfortunately, children are more susceptible to the damage caused by this smoke. 

Limit your child’s use of antibiotics

Some research has found that antibiotics may weaken the immune system’s ability to fight off infection, whether it’s bacterial or not. If a doctor prescribes your child antibiotics, don’t just accept the prescription without a few questions. Only give your child antibiotics if it is absolutely necessary and if there are no alternatives available.

Kids are what they eat

As with most things in your body, a healthy diet is key to a strong immune system. Try to limit your child’s intake of sugar and bad fats and opt for fresh fruit, veggies, lean protein, and healthy carbs instead. Keep in mind that Vitamin C is perhaps the most popular supplement taken to protect against infection due to its important role in immune health. This vitamin supports the function of various immune cells and enhances their ability to protect against infection. Good to know: If your child suffers frequent colds, infections, digestive problems, delayed wound healing, skin infections, fatigue, or delayed growth speak to your healthcare provider as these signs may point to a weakened immune system.

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