Immune Health for Children
The only thing that's shared faster than gossip and lunchbox snacks on the school playground is, unfortunately, the common cold. While there are a lot of things out of our control as parents and caregivers, there are simple steps we can take to improve and maintain our children’s immune system.
The immune system is composed of cells and molecules organised into specialised tissues, which act as the body's first line of defence. If you're wondering how you can best support your kids' immune system, you're in the right place. Oh, and they don't have to cost you an arm and a leg too.
Stress and Children
Adults have their fair share of stress, but so do kids. Between social media, school and social pressure, kids have a lot on their plate and though they may not realise it, they do get stressed. When children get stressed, their cortisol and adrenaline rise, which can compromise their immune system. For them to thrive, children require downtime away from stimulus (I'm looking at you, gamers) and time for creative play.
Sleep for Kids
Speaking of downtime, let's talk about zzz's. Sleeping gives the body time to relax, restore and recover.1 It's essential for our immune system health. For proper secretion of our sleep hormone, melatonin, children need to sleep in a dark room without screens. Inappropriate light exposure, such as that from a screen, can disturb human circadian rhythms and impact physical and mental health.2 Try to switch off screens a few hours before bedtime.
A Healthy Diet for kids
While there's no denying that children can be extremely fussy, ensuring they eat real and fresh produce is a crucial factor in supporting the immune system. If you know a kid who sticks their nose up at vegetables, try blending them into muffins, a smoothie or sneaking them into spaghetti sauce. Kids do require an adequate amount of protein for building and repairing cells and hormones, so be sure to include protein in every meal! Avoid any allergens and excess sugar as these can heighten inflammation and reduce immune health.
There are some specific nutrients can be beneficial for our immune health.
Vitamin C consumption can support our immune system and help kids' fight off the common cold. Vitamin C can be found in capsicums, oranges, kiwi fruit, berries, tomatoes and kale.
Often deficient, zinc containing antioxidant properties, can help reduce oxidative damage done to body cells and can help reduce the duration of common cold symptoms.3 Find zinc in beef, meat, nuts and seeds, legumes and whole grains.
Vitamin D also is important in maintaining a healthy immune system. While we can obtain adequate vitamin D levels from the sun, Vitamin D can be found in some foods, such as fish and mushrooms, which aren’t typically loved by children. Additionally, Supplementation is also an option to help support your child’s immune system health.
1The National Sleep Foundation, 2018
2 Cho, Chul-Hyun et al., Impact of Exposure to Dim Light at Night on Sleep in Female and Comparison with Male Subjects, 2018
3 Hechtman, Leah, Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, 2012.