A strong immune system is essential to fight against pathogens ( bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites ) and thus protect the body from various infections. If it gets weakened at any time, we and our children become more vulnerable to cold, flu, and other diseases. Low immunity could be due to various reasons, the most common one being lack of proper diet. It’s vital to strengthen the immune system to keep infections at bay. Healthy eating and lifestyle will keep your child/children’s health in tip-top condition!
So, here are the key points we can implement to enhance immunity in children so that they don’t fall ill frequently.
1. Healthy balanced diet
A well balanced diet plays a crucial role in keeping well. Make sure your child has a healthy varied diet by incorporating plenty of colourful fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dry fruits, grains, good fats, lean proteins, low fat diary products, pulses and lentils into their diet. Encourage them to eat immune boosting foods which contain vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that increase the production of infection fighting white blood cells in their body. Try to give your kids 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day ( whether they are fresh, cooked, dried, juice). These could be incorporated into their main meals, snacks, puddings or desserts.
2. Limit the intake of sugar
Excess sugar consumption is found to have detrimental effects on the functioning of the immune system. Children are more sugar sensitive than adults and its effects are more in younger children. The more sugar they take, the less vitamin C gets into their white blood cells and it badly affects immunity. So, always limit the intake of sugar and sugary foods, as too much sugar results in a weakened immune defence.
3. Breastfeed your baby
We are all aware about the rich nutritional and immune enhancing benefits of breastmilk. So, if we are able to breastfeed, we are encouraged to continue as long as we can. The immune enhancing antibodies and white blood cells found in breastmilk aids in the growth of a healthy developing immune system. The American academy of paediatrics recommends to exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first six months. If at all, this is not feasible, aim to breastfeed for at least the first two or three months where ever possible.
4. Get active
Besides eating healthy, regular physical activity also contributes to overall health and hence a better healthy immune system. You can encourage kids and join them in family fun activities like cycling, skipping, swimming, running around, and playing games that require physical action ( basketball, football, cricket, tennis, etc ). These activities are not only a good workout for the body but also is absolute fun!
5. Make sure kids get enough fresh air and sunshine
It’s important that children get plenty of fresh air and sunshine, as it nourishes the immune system. Exposure to sunlight helps their body manufacture Vitamin D which helps strengthen the immune system, in addition to various other functions.
6. Adequate sleep
The body and the immune system repairs and restores itself during sleep. It’s crucial to make sure that children are getting enough sleep, as sleep deprivation tend to make them more susceptible to various illness. Establish an adequate nap and bed time routine depending on your child’s age and needs.
7. Stop exposing children to secondhand smoke
Keep your kids away from passive smoking, as studies have revealed that secondhand smoke may affect the immune system, making babies, toddlers and young children more prone to infections of all kinds. Kids are more susceptible to the harmful effects of passive smoking than grown ups because they breathe at a faster rate and also their natural detoxification system is less developed.
8. Do not pressurize the paediatrician
Taking antibiotics whenever your child has a cold, flu or sore throat is not a good idea, as antibiotics treat only illnesses caused by bacteria and most common childhood diseases seem to be viral. Studies have shown that some paediatricians prescribe antibiotics somewhat reluctantly at the urging of parents, who have the misunderstanding that it won’t do harm. But it does! Antibiotics if used unnecessarily can have adverse effects on the immune system. So it is recommended only if solely essential for a particular condition.
9. Reduce stress
Children could also be stressed out as adults do, due to various reasons. And if so, their bodies can have elevated levels of stress hormones which can lower the immune response. Hence parents should help them to be cool and not be under a lot of stress, so that it does’nt affect their immunity. Make sure to have a family fun and chat time that could raise a huge laughter across the house. Remember laughter increases the production of the ‘feel-good’ hormones called endorphins and reduces stress. So Have fun!
All these lifestyle strategies will go a long way to ensure that your child’s/children’s immunity is maintained.
Important : Please note that you consult a paediatrician if you doubt that your child’s immunity is severely compromised.
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