Sure shot ways to increase immunity in your child

With the start of the school year or day care, comes endless cycles of sniffles, fever, coughs, mucus and all that goes with it as your child is exposed to more kids and more ways of getting infected. Most of the time though, exposure to common germs is a good thing – it actually does build immunity in your child. But other than go through the rut of these infections, there is something more that you can do to build your child’s immunity –

1. Increase the amount of natural vitamins

By ingesting fruits and vegetables, your kids get more natural vitamins and minerals than they would if artificially given through health drinks and supplements. Carrots, green beans, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, etc. have a rich array of immunity-boosting phytonutrients like Vitamin C and carotenoids. They increase the amount of WBCs (White blood cells) in your body which automatically boosts your body’s infection-fighting capacity. The 5-servings-a-day rule is a great way to make sure that your kid includes at least 5 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables in a day. Don’t scrimp. Not here. Besides, it reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer in adulthood.

2. Breast-feed your baby

This is something you may not be prepared to hear, especially if for unforeseen reasons, you couldn’t breastfeed or chose not to breastfeed your child. However, it is undeniable that breast milk contains turbo-charged immunity-boosting antibodies and WBCs which protect against a host of infections – pneumonia, meningitis, insulin-dependent diabetes, Crohn’s disease, colitis and perhaps even Cancer in future. Even more important than the breast milk itself, is the “pre-milk” or colostrum – the thin, yellow discharge which is super rich in antibodies. Aim to breastfeed at least for 2-3 months, if not a year, to supplement your baby’s extra-uterine experience to the immunity received in-utero.

3. Make sure your child sleeps well

Sleep deprivation results in many issues, one of them being, reduced immunity. This side effect is well observed in adults and children. A child may need up to 18 hours a day if he/she’s an infant, with the amount of sleep required gradually reducing to 8-9 hours a day by the time they turn 5. If they seem tired during the day or can’t go without a nap, consider advancing their bedtimes. Good shut-eye can solve a lot of problems.

4. Beware of spreading germs

Prevention is better than cure. While this isn’t intrinsically improving immunity, it reduces the stress to your child’s immune system, thereby making it stronger to deal with the next bout of whatever is lurking. It’s good practice to have your kids wash their hands after using the rest room, after they touch something filthy, and so on. This promotes good general hygiene and hence boosts immunity. Here’s a handy tip – if your child falls sick, throw out her tooth brush! While an infected tooth brush won’t re-infect your child, the germs may pass on to the toothbrushes of other family members and cause the flu to spread among all of you.

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5. Don’t be pill-happy

As adults with freely available pharmaceuticals, it is so easy to pop an antibiotic for a suspected infection, to take an aspirin for a headache and so on. Antibiotics are never available without prescriptions in developed countries. The free availability actually kills their purpose – they become lesser effective as time goes on. While this works for us in short term, we should never self-medicate our kids. And neither should we pressure the pediatricians for a prescription for foreseeable infections (I’m going to Sri Lanka next week. Can you prescribe all the common meds for them for the week?)

6. Encourage exercise

Getting some physical activity is a sure-fire way of increasing natural immunity cells in the body. Try and get out as a family. This is a great practice for everyone in the family to make a habit.

7. Banish second-hand smoke

Cigarettes are killers. Not just for the smoker but for everyone around him/her. Kids are more susceptible to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke than adults and cigarette smoke contains over 4000 toxins which can irritate or kill cells in your body. This is a great reason, if you didn’t have enough already, to quit NOW.

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