How to boost your child's immune system

How to boost your child's immune system

When your child is sick, it often means their immune system is building up resistence to ilness and infection. While they will develop a natural resistance, there are things you can do to boost your child's immune system and speed up the recovery process 

While having a sick child can be upsetting, it's worth remembering that, with the right support, children have a great capacity for recovery. 

Natural resilience

An ill child having his temperature taken while lying under a blanket Credit: PeopleImages

A nutritious diet, the right amount of sleep and physical activity, as well as loving care, are all key ingredients for a healthy, happy and resilient child. But illness is a normal part of every child’s life. Some illnesses come on suddenly and often get better on their own within a short time.

"A nutritious diet, sleep, physical activity, and loving care, are all key ingredients for a healthy child"

Because their immune systems are immature, children tend to be more susceptible than adults to these acute ailments, which are often relatively minor. It’s quite normal for a child to go down with a virus up to 12 times a year. In fact, catching infections is what helps your child to build up his or her natural resistance. 

Long-term conditions

A child with her head in her hands and soft toy in her lap in front of an adult with a clipboard Credit: Prostock-Studio

Sometimes a child may develop a more lasting (chronic) physical or mental health problem such as diabetes, a food allergy, attention deficit disorder or depression.

Such conditions can initially disrupt everyday life and will take time to get used to. Maintaining a calm, practical approach will help both you and your child adjust and live as normally as possible. 

Avoiding illness 

A child getting a vaccination Credit: spukkato

From birth onwards, there is much parents can do to prevent a child from becoming ill. Some of the measures are similar to the general guidelines for healthy living. Others, such as immunisations, can give lifetime protection against major diseases.

Here are some important steps that you can take to safeguard your child’s health from birth through to adolescence

Attend routine health checks. These are scheduled during infancy and the childhood years. They provide an opportunity for health professionals to spot any health or developmental problems early and take necessary action. 

Give your child a healthy diet. Your child needs a balanced diet that supplies the nutrients required at each stage of development. Current WHO guidelines recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months.

"Current WHO guidelines recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months"

If this is not possible, formula feeds can provide a satisfactory alternative. Then provide your growing child with meals packed with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit and protein.

Choose unrefined carbohydrates (whole-grain bread and brown pasta and rice) and "good fats" rather than the less healthy alternatives. 

Toddler holding up a spoonful of yoghurt out of a bowl between two other toddlers Credit: Andrey_Kuzmin

Make your home smoke-free. Quitting smoking is good for the health of both parents as well as that of the child. Passive smoking increases your child’s risk of ear and throat infections as well as asthma and cot death. And the example you set is bound to have an influence on your child as he or she grows up.

Make sure your child has all the required vaccinations. The national immunisation schedule has helped greatly to reduce the incidence of potentially dangerous childhood infections. Ask your health visitor for more information. 

Encourage your child to get enough sleep. Babies need up to 18 hours a day and even older children need 10 to 12 hours sleep including daytime naps. 

Make sure your child gets sufficient exercise. Children need at least an hour’s physical activity every day—outside whenever possible.This is key to weight control and heart health in the future.Try to restrict the amount of time your child spends in front of the computer or TV. 

Monitor your child’s weight. Childhood obesity is on the increase and with it a greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis and many other illnesses. The majority of children can maintain a healthy weight with the right balance of exercise and food intake. 

On the alert 

A young girl blowing into a tissue held to her nose by someone else off camera Credit: Suzi Media Production

As a parent, you’ll need to be alert and prepared for a range of minor ailments and some more serious conditions that may affect your child. Problems such as colds and coughs are a common occurrence during childhood. 

"Problems such as colds and coughs are a common occurrence during childhood"

However, you should talk to your GP or health visitor if you think your baby or child is not progressing (for example, crawling, walking or talking) normally for a child of his or her age.

Hearing and vision problems will often be picked up at routine health checks, but they can be easily missed by parents. Ask your GP to arrange a hearing test for your child if he or she appears to have speech problems or often fails to respond when you talk.

It's also a good idea to have your child’s eyesight tested if he or she seems slow to acquire reading skills or always sits close to the TV.

Banner credit: FamVeld

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