Immunity boosters for kids

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Shivering our way through the colder months of the year is guaranteed - much like the colds, flu and viruses that it brings to our families.  

But while us adults can nurse ourselves back to health relatively quickly, it often hits our children harder.

There are no guaranteed ways to avoid these dreaded lurgies completely, but there are ways we can boost our children's immunity.  

This can mean they are less susceptible to illness in the first place, and help them recover in the instances when they do get sick.

Here are some of the best immunity boosting tips.

Foods

Maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet is one of the best ways that you can ensure that your child's immune system and health remains strong.

Fruit and vegetables such as carrots, green beans, oranges and strawberries are good examples of foods that contain immunity boosting phytonutrients.  

These phytonutrients can assist in increasing the body's production of white blood cells and antibodies that help to block out viruses.

'Superfoods' in particular contain high levels of phytonutrients, and many also offer additional health and immune boosting benefits.

Colourful vegetables offer a good source of antioxidants, and green vegetables provide folic acid, zinc and vitamins.

Yoghurt is full of probiotics, while garlic and onions help fight bacteria in the stomach, and fish offers the benefits of omega 3.

Vitamins and supplements

While a balanced diet will provide a sufficient level of vitamins for your child, additional supplements may be beneficial during sickness, cold and flu season, or in the instance that your child is a picky eater.

Vitamin C is one of the most essential vitamins for children due to its antioxidant properties that help ward off sickness. Vitamin C is found naturally in foods such as oranges, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes and broccoli.

Vitamin D is another important vitamin for children and is obtained from both food and sun exposure.

Much research has linked vitamin D to healthy immune systems, and recommendations state that children should have safe sun exposure for 20-30 minutes a day to boost their levels.  

In instances where this is not possible, a supplement may be beneficial.

Other immunity boosting vitamins and supplements include zinc, Echinacea, and probiotics.

Cutting out sugar

While the occasional cake, chocolate or biscuit is fine, a regular diet laden with sugar is not.

Sugar has been linked with the dampening of children's immune systems, and sugar overloads can trigger a dip in immune functioning for up to six hours.

Try to avoid obvious sugar laden foods wherever possible and be aware of hidden sugars in processed foods.

Sleep

One of the most natural ways to boost your child's immunity is by ensuring that they are getting adequate hours of sleep.  

If your child is sleep deprived, their immune system is negatively impacted and their body's ability to fight off infection is low.

Ongoing sleep deficiency can mean your child may have trouble fighting off even the smallest of infections.

Recommended hours of sleep for children are:

  • Children 1-2 years: 11 to 14 hours
  • Preschoolers 3-5 years: 11 to 13 hours
  • School children 6-13 years: 9 to 11 hours

Exercise

Research has shown that regular and moderate exercise may help improve your child's immunity as it increases white blood cell activity and its circulation throughout the body.  

On the flipside, too much exercise can have a negative effect as a child will become overtired and their immune system overworked.

According to government guidelines, children aged between 1-5 should be physically active every day for at least three hours, spread throughout the day.

Children aged between 5-17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day.