Seeing your child sick with a tummy bug or runny nose is hard in many ways, as a parent you wish nothing more than your child stays happy and healthy all year round. While getting sick is at times unavoidable there are ways to help support your child’s immune system to reduce the risk of infections and severity of symptoms from them.
When thinking about the immune system and why we get sick it is good to think of it like a machine that is constantly working inside of us, machines sometimes stop working correctly for many reasons. Our immune system also relies on other parts of the machine to run smoothly and at times needs a helping hand to keep things working correctly, this includes:
Your child’s nutritional intake through their diets can alter their immune response, this also includes what is not included in your child’s diet, as deficiencies and imbalances can increase the likelihood of infections and severity of symptoms. Nutrients are the fuel your body uses to keep parts of the machine in good working condition. Maintaining a well-balanced diet every day can help support their immune system, here are some common nutrients our immune system requires:
|Vitamin group||Food sources|
|A||Sweet potato and carrot|
|B||Brown rice and broccoli
|C||Strawberries and kiwi fruit|
|D||Eggs and mushrooms|
|E||Avocado and sunflower seeds|
|Zinc||Beef and sunflower seeds|
|Selenium||Tuna and brazil nuts|
|Iron||Beef and Spinach|
|Copper||Dark chocolate and hazelnuts|
|Omega 3’s EPA & DHA||Salmon and walnuts|
|Glutamine||Eggs and soybeans|
|Lysine||Cheese and mango|
|Arginine||Chicken and chickpeas|
In the lining of your guts you house cells and microbiota, about 70% of these cells make up your immune system. These Immune cells and gut bacteria which reside in your gut work hard to keep your immune system in balance. Gut bacteria, for example, regulates mucosal immune activity, protects against intestinal infection, produces short-chain fatty acids, enzymes and vitamins and also modulates your metabolic activity. It is a lot of work, and by giving them a nice meal to digest and a nice environment to work in they can do their work for our immune system. Here are some ways to help promote good gut health in your child:
Common illnesses like stomach bugs, food poisoning and colds are spread through bacterial or viral infections, which can enter your body in different ways, such as your mouth, skin, nose or a bite. By creating clean spaces and practising good personal hygiene you can help minimise the risks of these bugs. Some easy ways for your child to keep germs at bay include:
A lack of sleep can impair our immune system functioning well and our sleep is altered during periods of infection, we are all familiar with the feeling of needing more sleep or feeling very lethargic when sick. This happens because of cytokines, small proteins which send signals to our body cells. During infections some cytokines signal to us that we need different types of sleep to help our bodies recover. Your body may need more NREM sleep during times of illness, this means ‘non-rapid eye movement sleep’ in which you do not dream and are ‘out cold’. During NREM sleep your body repairs and regrows tissue, builds bones and muscle and helps strengthen your immune system. By getting a good night sleep your child can maintain a healthy immune system that assists their recovery, here are some quick tips for your next bedtime:
Drinking water throughout the day is good for staying healthy overall, it also helps the immune system in a few ways, such as:
Try to keep your child drinking fluids throughout the day by marking a water bottle or setting reminders. Sugary drinks should be avoided, this includes juices. Though some juices contain vitamins which help support our immune system (like vitamin C in orange juice) they are very high in sugar. Try adding a wedge of orange or lemon to water for a splash of vitamin C and flavour.
The best way we can fight infections is to make sure we do not catch it at all through prevention. If we think carefully about the cleanliness and hygiene of our environments, providing the right ‘fuel’ for our bodies and letting them rest so they do not get ill so easily we can help keep our children happy and healthy through good immune health.