We often find our children have been well all summer holidays and the minute they head back to daycare, kinder or school they are quick to pick up a virus leaving them unwell. There is certainly a lot of viruses doing their rounds at the moment and it’s no surprise when you think about how many things our kids touch during the day? The books, pencils, play equipment, unfortunately, the odds are against them. Our children aren’t even aware of how often they touch their faces and then touch another child. The germs get passed around and predictably, our kids do get sick throughout the school year.
For parents of children starting daycare, often it feels like your child recovers from an illness only to go back the next week, pick up another virus and get sick again. I hope it gives you some reassurance that you are not alone and it can be a very frustrating and exhausting time. On a positive note, you are are building up your child’s immune system and by the time they are in kinder and school, colds will be less prevalent.
So what can we do as parents to help our children fight these bugs and build up their immunity? The following are 4 important factors in ensuring your child’s immune system will be at its peak to fight infections that come their way:
- Adequate sleep-Sleep deprivation lowers the immune systems’ ability to fight off infections. A 1-3-year-old child requires a total amount of sleep ranging anywhere between 12-13.5 hours, whereas as school-age children should get 10-11 hours of sleep every night.
- Good nutritious food: A child’s immune system is greatly impacted by a healthy diet. A well-balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts, adequate protein and minimal junk food will strengthen their immune system.
- Plenty of fresh air: to ensure our children get their required dose of ‘vitamin sun (ie vitamin D)’ which plays an important role in our children’s immune function.
- Exercise: If your child is physically active, their immune system is more efficient at destroying intruders that cause illnesses such as colds and viruses.
So what are my top tips:
1.Pack your child’s lunch with lots of immune boosting foods
Vitamin C: Food rich in vitamin C doesn’t prevent colds but they have been proven to shorten the duration of colds with adequate Vitamin C intake eg berries, Kiwi fruit, oranges, pineapple, broccoli and red pepper.
Zinc: is essential for the healthy activity of immune cells and when our kids are deficient they are more susceptible to catching illnesses. Studies also shown adequate zinc levels reduce the duration and severity of colds. Hummus is a great dip rich in zinc, to add to your child’s lunch box as well as red meat and chicken which are both high in zinc and can easily be added to a sandwich in your child’s lunchbox.
We don’t want to become obsessive with germs but it’s important for your child to understand some basic tips to help prevent germs entering the body. The main tip is to always cover their mouths when coughing eg. coughing into their elbow crease and to always wash their hands obviously after going to the bathroom, after blowing their nose and before eating. If it’s not practical for your child to get to a tap, you can always give them a hand sanitizer gel in their school bag, but washing with soap and water is preferable.
As a general rule, if your child eats a nutritionally balanced diet then generally there is no need for a supplement.The best way to get your vitamins and minerals is from a healthy, well-balanced diet, because we absorb vitamins and minerals better when eaten as part of our usual diet. A supplement may be necessary but only in certain circumstances either because a child may be unable to eat certain foods (e.g. due to medical conditions), are vegetarian or vegan, or are very fussy eaters. In those cases, a supplement may be necessary.
However when a parent comes to the pharmacy and explains that their child eats well but needs something to boost their immune system as they keep getting sick with infections and requiring antibiotics, my response is always Probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms that help maintain the balance of good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract. The healthy flora in our digestive tract assist us to digest food, absorb minerals, eliminate toxins and ward off viral and bacterial issues. A balanced healthy gut is essential for a healthy functioning immune system. Clinical trials have shown that certain probiotics may reduce the number of days absent from childcare and school due to colds and gastroenteritis. Bioceuticals, Ethical nutrients and Lifespace all make probiotics suitable for our children from birth
4. Flu vaccine
The flu vaccine this year is quadrivalent, meaning it covers four different strains of the flu, which is an improvement to last years, which only covered 3 different strain types. The flu vaccine is available from your GP and right now is currently available. Your child can get the flu vaccine from 6 months of age. Just remember the very first time your child has the flu vaccine they need 2 doses, 1 month apart. The flu vaccine has already been given to millions of children around the world who have just been through their winter and has been tolerated very well with the main side effect being a mild fever (like all vaccines). Be mindful that the flu vaccine doesn’t protect against the common cold viruses but it does protect against the influenza virus which causes more severe symptoms of a cold with very high temperatures, lethargy and even breathing difficulties.
Stay tune for part 2 which will cover what’s a parent to do when they have a miserable child who is coughing, spluttering and struggling to sleep through the night?
Please feel free to leave comments on this blog and if there are any questions I am more than happy to answer them. Also, if you tried a remedy that worked well for your children that was, or wasn’t mentioned above, let me know. I hope this information does help.
Disclaimer – The material on this blog is only to be used for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before applying the methods, medicines, techniques or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein. The names of people mentioned in this blog have been changed to protect the real patient’s confidentiality.