10 Easy & Effective Ways To Boost Your Child's Immune System

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Immunity is our body’s natural ability to fight infections and illnesses. Knowing ways to boost your kid’s immunity can help them stay healthy and active as the development and maturation of immunity continue throughout childhood. Different organs, cells, and proteins work together to form the immune system, which senses and attacks bacteria, viruses, etc. However, remember that no specific food or supplement can directly increase immunity. Instead, a child must follow several healthy lifestyle practices to ensure a robust immune system functioning (1) (2).

Read on to learn the different ways to boost a child’s immunity.

Ways To Boost A Child’s Immunity

Immunity-building doesn’t happen in a day. Rather, it’s a progressive process that occurs when your child follows healthy lifestyle practices regularly. Here’s a list of those practices that you should motivate your child to adopt (3).

1. Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet

Children need to consume three main meals and at least one to two snacks each day (4). These meals and snacks should contain various foods from different food groups, such as:

  • Fresh, seasonal fruits, particularly citrus fruits rich in fiber and vitamin C
  • Fresh, seasonal vegetables, such as green leafy vegetables
  • Whole grains, pulses, and legumes
  • Nuts, seeds, and dried fruits
  • Lean meat and low-fat dairy

According to experts, eating foods from different food groups provide a child with nutrients, such as protein, vitamin A, C, D, zinc, and selenium, which are vital for the growth and function of immune cells (5). Besides, it helps keep obesity and malnutrition at bay which are two known factors to depress immunity.

2. Avoid highly processed foods

Highly processed foods are high in refined sugar, sodium, refined carbs, and certain additives that can disturb the healthy gut microflora, causing chronic gut inflammation that suppresses immunity (5). Besides these, consuming ultra-refined foods reduces healthy food intake, which also affects robust immune system functioning.

3. Stay active throughout the day

Experts advise children and teens between 6-17 years to have at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity each day (6). According to Texas Children’s Hospital, “some evidence exists that exercise can boost immune function in children (7).”

The exact reason how exercise modulates immunity isn’t clear, but some plausible theories are the following (8).

  • Exercise may help flush out pathogens from the airways, reducing the risk of catching infections such as the common cold and flu.
  • Exercise causes changes in antibodies and white blood cells (WBC), causing them to circulate rapidly in the system to detect illnesses in time.
  • Exercise causes a brief rise in the body temperature, which may prevent bacterial growth and help the body fight bacterial infections better.
  • Exercise suppresses stress hormone production, which is a known factor to hinder proper immune system functioning.

Exercise is good for children, but ensure your child doesn’t overdo it. It’s vital because excess exercise could lead to other issues, such as dehydration and stress that depress immunity.

4. Ensure sound sleep

Children between three and five and six and 12 years should get 10 to 13 hours and nine to 12 hours of sleep, respectively (9). Sleeping for a sufficient number of hours is important for the brain and body to relax and rejuvenate. To ensure your child is sleeping enough, motivate them to practice sleep hygiene habits. Observing these habits can help your child sleep for enough hours, and have good sleep quality. Remember, sleeping undisturbed (sleep quality) is equally important to the number of hours a child must sleep.

5. Learn stress management

Children feel stressed, too. Research shows that chronic stress, anxiety, and depression can suppress the immune response (10). So, encourage your child to indulge in de-stressing activities, such as meditation and deep-breathing exercises, to manage stress. Also, help them learn constructive stress-coping skills, such as writing a journal or talking to a friend or family member to vent out stressful feelings.

6. Avoid secondhand smoke

Passive smoking is as hazardous to health as is active smoking. According to an NCBI resource, chronic secondhand smoke exposure can affect T-cells, influencing different biological mechanisms, such as gene regulation, cytokine production, and immunoglobulin E (IgE) synthesis (11). These modulations of the immune system may raise the risk of contracting respiratory infections (12).

7. Follow proper personal hygiene

Washing hands before and after eating, bathing daily, trimming nails, and covering mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing are simple precautions that children should follow to prevent infectious diseases. Wearing a mask in public places and maintaining oral hygiene by brushing and flossing twice a day are other additional habits children should follow to stay safe.

8. Follow immunization schedule

Children require vaccination to stay protected from illnesses, such as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, chickenpox, and influenza, to name a few. According to experts, vaccines stimulate a child’s immune system and prepare the body to fight a pathogen faster and more efficiently (13). Follow your child’s immunization schedule that can help you stay on track.

9. Use dietary supplements

Following healthy lifestyle habits, such as eating a well-balanced diet and sleeping sound, is sufficient for most healthy children to keep their immune systems working efficiently. However, discuss nutritional supplement use with your doctor if your child is a picky eater or has a health condition, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), affecting their food intake, digestion, and absorption. Your doctor will evaluate your child’s nutritional status and recommend a nutritional supplement, if needed, with a specific dosage.

10. Abstain from antibiotic abuse

Giving your child an antibiotic might seem an easy way to get rid of infections. However, it’s important to understand that not all infections respond to antibiotics. It’s so because bacteria are not the only pathogens that cause infections. Rather, the most common infections, such as common cold, flu, and sore throat, are caused by viruses (viral infections). Thus, use antibiotics judiciously to avoid antibiotic resistance, which may suppress immunity (14) (15).

Robust immunity is important for children to stay healthy. So, strengthen your child’s immunity by guiding and supporting them to follow healthy habits, such as eating nutritious foods, exercising, and sleeping soundly. If your child has weak immunity due to insufficient dietary intake or any health issues, consult your healthcare provider promptly and discuss dietary supplement use.

Key Pointers

  • A strong immunity helps prevent children from falling sick often.
  • Staying active and having a balanced diet are the best ways to increase immunity naturally.
  • Managing stress, maintaining personal hygiene, and other tips to increase immunity naturally in children are given below.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. The Immune System.
    https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/the-immune-system
  2. Can You Really Boost Your Immune System?.
    https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/boosting-your-immune-system.html
  3. Boosting your child’s immune system.
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/boosting-your-childs-immune-system-202110122614
  4. When Should My Kids Snack?
    https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/when-should-my-kids-snack
  5. Nutrition and Immunity.
    https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/
  6. How much physical activity do children need?.
    https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/children/index.htm
  7. Can exercise boost immune function in children?.
    https://www.texaschildrens.org/blog/can-exercise-boost-immune-function-children
  8. Exercise and immunity.
    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007165.htm
  9. AAP endorses new recommendations on sleep times.
    https://www.aappublications.org/news/2016/06/13/Sleep061316
  10. Stress and the immune system.
    https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/326983/WH-1994-Mar-Apr-p4-5-eng.pdf
  11. Respiratory Effects in Children from Exposure to Secondhand Smoke.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK44318/
  12. Passive smoking.
    https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/passive-smoking
  13. Vaccines for children: Your questions answered.
    https://www.unicef.org/parenting/health/parents-frequently-asked-questions-vaccines
  14. Antibiotic resistance.
    https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antibiotic-resistance
  15. Antibiotics may reduce the ability of immune cells to kill bacteria.
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171130141100.htm
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Dr. Dur Afshar Agha

(MS)
Dr. Dur Afshar Agha is a consultant pediatrician with decades of experience in various medical facilities both in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. She has headed the Department of Preventive Pediatrics at the prestigious, Children’s Hospital and Institute of Child Health in Pakistan and is a life member of the Pakistan Paediatric Association. She has also completed her Post Graduate Program... more

Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more