4 Ways to Boost Your Kid’s Immune System
Runny nose after runny nose… after runny nose. It seems like as soon as your little one gets over one cold, another one follows. Getting sick is a normal part of life for any school-aged child; however, recurrent and prolonged upper respiratory infections do not have to be the norm. There is a solution to the frequent illnesses that seems to plague the average primary schooler, and it starts with providing the nutritional essentials to keep their immune system primed and ready to fight infection before it can take hold.
For the immune system to function well, it requires certain nutrients such as zinc, selenium, vitamin C and B vitamins such as folate. If your child is a picky eater, a multivitamin is like an insurance policy that will fill in the gaps on the days when their nutritional intake is lacking. However, when choosing a multivitamin, avoid products that are high in sugar and if you choose a gummy vitamin, be sure to brush the teeth afterwards to prevent cavities.
A good quality probiotic supplement can keep your child’s immune system strong. Probiotics are the live, therapeutic bacteria that also reside in the gastrointestinal tract. These bacteria stimulate the immune system both locally (in the gut) and systemically to respond quickly to infection by producing special immune cells and antibodies. A good probiotic is an important staple for bowel regularity and for preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Most importantly, the regular intake of a probiotic may help fend off upper respiratory tract infections.
Vitamin D is nicknamed ‘the sunshine vitamin’ because your skin needs to be exposed to sunlight for it to be produced. Vitamin D plays an important role in immune function. It enhances the natural antimicrobial effects of the white blood cells, and it’s an essential hormone for building healthy muscles and bones. Some beverages such as orange juice and dairy products are fortified with vitamin D. It can also be found naturally in egg yolks, salmon and calf liver. However, despite the food sources available, most Canadians are deficient in this nutrient. Chronic deficiency in vitamin D increases the risk of upper respiratory infection as well as autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, lupus and diabetes. Therefore, it is imperative that vitamin D is a part of your child’s daily routine. Look for a liquid form of vitamin D3 for optimal absorption.
Sambucus nigra is the species of elderberry used historically as medicine to treat cold and flu. It is a native plant to Europe and parts of North America. The fruit is used to make a delicious syrup that your kids won’t have any trouble getting down. It is not recommended to give children over-the-counter cough syrups that contain codeine. These medications can cause serious side effects including difficulty with breathing.
Elderberry syrup, however, is a great alternative. It can soothe the inflammation and irritation of a sore throat and help expel phlegm. In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, elderberry reduced the duration of flu symptoms by three to four days. This is one natural remedy that can be kept in your medicine cabinet to be safely used at the first sign of cold, flu or fever.
With back to school on the horizon, the time is now to start considering what you can do to gently support the immune system of your little ones. Back to school doesn’t have to mean back to illness. Our hope is that these remedies help set you and your family up for a healthier school year.