What you need to know about your child's immune system
Smart steps to show their immune systems some TLC
As parents or carers, wanting to keep our little ones’ safe and sound is part of the job description. As we get used to our new normal, you’re bound to have some worries about the school-year sniffles as children start going back to the classroom. Enter the immune system. Helping your child to maintain a well-functioning immune system is key to fighting off nasty viruses and illnesses, so we’re putting on our teacher’s hat and sharing some easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy tips.
Immune system basics
Open your textbooks to immune system 101. It’s the job of the small but mighty army of cells, organs and tissues that make up our immune system to protect our bodies against infection and disease. How does it work? Well, it knows the difference between your own body cells and those it doesn’t recognise, helping to fight off anything in your body that may make you feel under the weather.
Food, glorious food!
There’s no magic food that will give a child immunity against a virus (yep, that includes those superfoods!) because only a vaccine will do that. We’re sure you’ve heard it before, but encouraging children to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet is key to keeping their immune systems ticking over nicely. Like us adults, children should try and eat their five-a-day because they’re full of vitamins and minerals. Why not liven up their lunchboxes with a rainbow of colour? If you’re dealing with a fussy eater, don’t panic! Fruit kebabs are always a hit. Luckily, things like oranges and strawberries contain vitamin C, which is great for immune system health. Hungry for more? Read our advice on diet and immunity.
S is for supplements
We all know the score with a well-balanced diet. But vitamin A, B6, B12, C and D supplements can also give your child’s immune system some support, especially if getting them to eat a varied diet makes dinner time difficult.
Get them moving
Having a kick about in the garden or hiking up a hill. Whatever activity takes their fancy, exercising is fab for helping immune systems to do their job. It's recommended that children aged two years old and upwards get at least 60 minutes of exercise every day. Getting them off the sofa will work wonders for their overall health, too. Why not try exercising with your little ones? Rain or shine, outdoors or indoors, there are lots of fun and easy activities that everyone can join in with.
The secret of sleep
If they're catching every cold going, their bedtime could be partly to blame. Getting enough shut-eye can help to maintain the normal function of their immune systems. When you sleep, your body produces a number of proteins and immunity cells to fight off infections. Encouraging to your children to spend enough time in the land of nod is important – especially when they’re back at school! Depending on their age, kids need between 10 and 14 hours sleep a night.
Why vaccinations are super-duper important
Did you know vaccines are the most effective way to help prevent infections? Yep, vaccines don’t just protect your little one from harmful diseases, they also help to stop the spread of them. Vaccines teach the immune system how to create antibodies (proteins produced by certain white blood cells) against a certain disease. It’s much safer for your immune system to learn how to protect your body through a vaccine, rather than catching the disease. Wowzah, isn’t science cool?
Help them wash their hands
Hands are the parts of our bodies that have the most contact with objects, other people and ourselves. While many of us have perfected head-to-toe hygiene, it’s a good idea to be paying our hands more attention, especially with what’s going on in the world. Lend your little one’s immune system a helping hand by teaching them the importance of washing their hands regularly. Clean water and hand soap are the best handwashing buddies going (don’t forget the 20-second rule!) because germs can be easily spread from the classroom to the living room. Psst! Why not add some hand sanitiser to your basket next time you’re shopping with Boots? They’re a great addition to their backpacks.
Let’s re-cap before the bell. Keeping your child’s immune system in tip-top shape can be helped by a well-balanced diet, exercise, sleep and supplements. Remember, only vaccinations against a virus will protect against it, so helping to keep their immune systems fighting fit starts at home – that’ll be your homework for the day!