Learn How to Help Your Child’s Immune System Fight Flu and Cold Viruses
As fall and flu season is upon us, I wanted to share some natural ways to boost your child’s (and why not your whole family’s) immune system. A weakened immune system leaves the body vulnerable to virtually every type of illness and disease, especially during these seasonal shifts when it is so easy to get sick. It’s always better to do as much as you can to prevent getting susceptible to any virus attacks rather than deal with an illness.
Why Boost Immune System in Fall?
Let’s first understand why our children, and adults too for that matter, get sick more in the fall-winter season. A number of studies have shown that the flu virus survives longer and spreads easily in cold and dry air. And because humidity levels drop in cold months this creates the perfect environment for the flu virus. As for cold viruses, these spread through direct contact. Our children go to school in fall and are in contact with other kids. Playing with each other and touching the same toys as someone with a cold in most cases results in getting the same virus.
We all know about the commonsense measures: getting enough sleep, eating food rich in vitamins – especially vitamin C, not staying too long in crowded places, washing hands after any contact with a person who’s got cold. But let me add one more – a rather important one – to this list.
As I’ve explained above, the flu virus lives longer in dry air, so by simply using a humidifier, you can significantly reduce its life. In my previous blog posts, I’ve written about this: I strongly believe that a decent humidifier is an essential item in a child room or baby nursery. And this is especially true for cold months. As soon as you put the heating on the air gets even drier so it is really important to put on a humidifier as well. If you are still on a lookout for a decent one, here are my recommendations:
2017 ASAKUKI Premium, Essential Oil Diffuser – This essential oil diffuser is also an air purifier and humidifier, plus it’s currently on sale on Amason at only $18.99 (down from $72.99).
MistAire XL Ultrasonic Cool Mist – This is the humidifier that I use in my son’s room. It’s pretty basic but does last for almost 24 hours if filled up and set on medium. I’ve had it since my son’s birth – i.e. over 2 years – and it still works well. Although if I knew at the time I had bought this humidifier that I can get a digital one with controlled humidity option, I would definitely go for that one (see the digital humidifier below).
BABYMOOV Digital Humidifier – If you want additional control for the level of humidity you maintain, this is the one to go with.
8 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Immune System
OK now that we are all clear about some common preventative measures during the fall season, let’s get to why we’ve actually gathered here: boosting your child’s immune system. A strong immune system helps the body fight with virtually any type of illness and disease. Please note though that my son is 2-years-old so I calmly give him everything on this list. If your child is of younger age or has any allergies make sure you consult with your pediatrician.
Еlderberry is number one on my list on purpose. This is probably the best general immune system booster out there and is considered a powerhouse of benefits for our health. Elderberry extract is very efficient in fighting flu and cold symptoms, is a natural remedy for sinus infections, helps in easing allergies. Like any other berry, there are so many ways to consume elderberry: in a tea, as a jam, as a juice. I give my son this elderberry syrup which I get from Amazon; it is made especially for kids without any additives. But you can also purchase dried elderberries at your local drug store or on Amazon here and make a syrup yourself (there are a lot of good recipes online). When preparing the syrup yourself you can add more flavor to it by including honey, cinnamon or other spices which are also natural immune system boosters. I am looking for a good recipe myself and will share one in my future posts.
2. Vitamin C
We are all well aware that vitamin C is associated with cold and flu prevention. It helps protect against infections, reduces inflammation and the severity of illnesses. It is important to know that unlike other vitamins our body cannot store vitamin C which means we need a fresh supply of it every day (you can read more about the 6 basic nutrients we need to include in our children’s diet in my blog post here). I don’t believe we should give our children dietary supplements as they can get all the needed vitamins from food. Just make sure to include vitamin C rich vegetables and fruit in your child’s everyday diet and moreover spread out those to 2-3 servings per day. Great food sources of vitamin C include berries, citrus, kiwi, bell peppers, and dark green vegetables.
Well, everything is clear with vitamin C as it is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about fighting cold and flu. But did you know that zinc is also a very important mineral for boosting immunity? It helps protect against viruses and bacteria and supports tissue repair. Protein-rich food (meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, legumes, nuts and seeds) contain zinc. Plus many breakfast cereals are fortified with zinc, check the brand you are using.
I guess there was no need to include water on my list as we all know how important it is to keep our children hydrated, but I still think I should. Water helps to produce lymph which carries white blood cells and other immune system cells. Plus vitamin C is water-soluble vitamin so for it to be better absorbed by our body we need water. If your child doesn’t like drinking plain water just try adding any citrus (lemon, lime, orange) in it. It will make the taste better and will serve as an extra boost of vitamin C.
Our immunity is very dependant on our digestive system. When we keep a healthy gut, germs have less of a chance to grab a hold. Thus maintaining good intestinal health contributes immensely to a strong immune system. Probiotics are good bacteria that are found in whole and fermented food, among which sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, kefir, kimchi. I give my son sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir almost every day. Sauerkraut is also rich in vitamin C and very easy to make: all you need is cabbage and salt. In most cases, I get sauerkraut at our local farmer’s market or Russian store. I do want to slowly incorporate kimchi and miso in my son’s diet, but I am not sure where I can purchase good organic kimchi. If you have any recommendations, please do share in the comments.
In addition to the fermented food, I do also give my son probiotics as a supplement. This is the only supplement along with Vitamin D that my son has been taking since he was 6 months. Klaire Labs is the brand recommended by our pediatrician. It has different kinds of bacteria and requires refrigeration.
One of the main roles that vitamin D plays in our body is that it strengthens our immune system. Our body produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun so basically, we should all try to get some sun every day. Because we start to make less vitamin D in the fall-winter season when days are shorter and much gloomier it is advisable to get vitamin D as a supplement. We live in California and our pediatrician recommends taking vitamin D every other day throughout the whole year. I assume children are recommended to take vitamin D daily in those states or parts of the world that have less sunshine. Being that vitamin D is also very important for proper bone growth in children do check with your pediatrician what would be the appropriate dosage for your child. This is the brand that I use for my son.
7. Bone Broth
I don’t know about you but I myself have recently discovered that in addition to so many other benefits bone broth inhibits infection caused by cold and flu viruses. Plus amino acids found in bones help fight inflammation. So if you don’t already use bone broth in your or your child’s diet you really should and I will do a separate post on the top reasons we should eat bone broth, as well as a good home recipe. Especially at the start of the flu season, this is one of the great preventative measures and even if you’re already fighting off a cold or the flu, bone broth can speed up healing.
Weather making your own homemade bone broth or buying from your local groceries store choose high-quality bones from grass-fed animals. You can buy or make bone broth from any type of bones: beef, pork, chicken or even fish. What is important to know is that bone broth requires lengthy simmering of at least 24 hours. But you can make it in batches and freeze. So when purchasing the bone broth make sure to check on the package if it was simmered for at least 24 hours. Plus check the ingredients section if it has vinegar or lemon juice, even better: as all the minerals leach better out of the bones in an acidic environment. Again, like with everything else making a bone broth yourself is the best way. So stay tuned for a homemade bone broth recipe from me 😉
8. Garlic, Ginger, and Spices
And lastly, we should never underestimate the power of garlic, onion, ginger and anti-inflammatory spices. Not only will these ingredients liven up any food but also help to fight any type of virus attacks and infection. Of course, due to the strong flavor, you should be cautious when using all these superfoods in your child’s meal. But if introduced gradually, you might be surprised how much your little one might actually enjoy all the extra flavors. Don’t be afraid to experiment with pepper cayenne, turmeric, cumin, paprika, different herbs. At this age children are more willing to try new food and flavors so this is your chance to incorporate variety into your child’s diet (more on that in my post here).
Our children grow up with a healthy immune system if they are on a balanced diet with whole foods, get enough sleep, and have the chance to get fresh air for at least 2-3 hours a day. But they do need that extra boost to the immune system during the cold and flu season to be able to fight against all the viruses in the air. So I really hope this list will help you and your child stay healthy this fall and winter!
If there are any other methods that you use with your child, please let us know in the comments.
And please do share this post with your mom friends if you think they would benefit from it. Sharing is caring! 🙂
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