There are a number of ways parents can help give a boost to their child’s immune system, a family doctor suggests.
“The immune system helps us fight infections,” said Dr. Palak Shroff, a family medicine specialist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.
“Immunity develops over time, so the more someone gets exposed, the more the immune system develops,” Shroff explained in a center news release.
“Kids’ whole environment is new, but over time, their immunity will develop and get better,” she added.
Shroff suggested 8 keys to helping children minimize their risk of catching every cold and virus that comes their way:
- Breast-feeding is the first step. It is an important way to help your child develop a strong immune system. “During breast-feeding, the mother’s immunity transfers to the child,” Shroff said.
- Vaccination is another crucial factor. Receiving all recommended vaccines prevents kids from catching potentially dangerous illnesses, such as whooping cough, measles, mumps, hepatitis and chicken pox. “All children over 6 months of age should get a flu shot. Sometimes small kids get the flu and that develops into pneumonia, then they struggle to get better for a long time,” Shroff noted.
- Offer kids a healthy diet. Parents should make sure children receive balanced meals with lots of fruits and vegetables. These foods contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that are essential for the immune system.
- Kids need sufficient sleep. If children aren’t well-rested, their bodies lose their natural defense mechanisms and have a tougher time fighting off illness, Shroff said.
- Physical activity is also important. Getting plenty of exercise promotes better blood circulation. This helps the lungs and heart work better, which boosts immunity, she added.
- Teach children good hygiene. Remembering to wash their hands and cover their coughs are simple habits that even young children should be encouraged to develop.
- Protect kids from cigarette smoke. Like any allergen, secondhand smoke will harm a child’s immunity. Kids who are exposed to cigarette smoke on a regular basis tend to develop respiratory infections.
- Avoid overuse of antibiotics. When these drugs are overused, bacteria can develop resistance to them. So when your child catches a bacterial illness that would normally be treated with an antibiotic, the treatment may not work. It’s best to let most viral illnesses run their course, Shroff advised.