8 Natural Ways to Boost Your Child’s Immune System for Fall and Winter

Why read: Children get sick more in the fall-winter season. Use these natural immune boosters for kids to strengthen your child’s immune system before the start of the school year to have a sickness free year.  

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Updated: September 25, 2019

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As fall and flu season is upon us, I wanted to share some natural immune boosters for kids to strengthen your child’s (and why not your whole family’s) immune system.

It’s a simple fact: kids tend to get sick more when they go to school. 

A weakened immune system leaves the body vulnerable to virtually every type of illness and disease. Especially during 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.

 

2 girls drawing in school


Immune System for Kids

Immune system is our body’s defense mechanism against infections and viruses.

Kids get sick a lot when they’re young because their immunity is not mature enough to fight all the harmful environmental factors. Hence, the first 5 years of life are very important for developing a strong immune system in kids. Without it, children would constantly get sick from germs such as bacteria and viruses. 

Gradual exposure to outside invaders and comprehensive measures geared at strengthening your child’s immune system will help to keep your child healthy. 

Why Boost Your Child’s 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. 

Preventive Measures

Before we get into the ways to boost your child’s immune system naturally, let’s have a look at some preventive measures that could help you keep your child from getting sick:

  • A healthy nutrient-rich diet with lots of raw vegetables and fruits;
  • Enough time for good sleep;
  • Lots of physical activity in fresh air (at least 3 hours a day);
  • Keeping hands off nose and eyes;
  • Washing hands frequently, especially after using the bathroom and before eating food;
  • Keeping up with all the vaccines;
  • Staying away from crowded places and people with cold and flu; 
  • Using separate towels and utensils. 

Related: 15 Practical Tips to Keep Your Child Healthy This School Year

Mom washing her child's hands

There is another a rather important preventive measure that I want to address separately. 

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. Plus cool mist helps ease congestion, so your child will breathe better and sleep better. 

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 turn the heating on the air gets even drier so it’s important to turn on a humidifier as well.

If you are still on a lookout for a good one, here are my recommendations:

Honeywell HCM350B Germ-Free Cool Mist Humidifier This is the humidifier I use in my son’s room. Unlike other humidifiers we used, this one comes with a removable water tank. It makes it way easier to clean and refill. 

Dyson AM10 Humidifier – If (and when) you can afford Dyson, always go with Dyson. I have a huge love relationship with any Dyson product and sometimes save for months to be able to get that one Dyson I need. Yes, all Dyson products are expensive but worth every penny. 

8 Natural Immune Boosters For Kids

OK now that we are all clear about some common preventive 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 3-years-old (4 at the time of updating this blog post) 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.

1. Elderberry Syrup

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.

Every September I give my son this elderberry syrup which I get from Amazon (but you can find it in Wholefoods as well). It is made especially for kids without any additives.

Alternatively, you can purchase dried elderberries at your local drug store or on Amazon here and make a syrup yourself. This way you can give the syrup to everyone in your family – including yourself- and it’ll much cheaper.

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.

elderberry syrup as the best immune booster for kids

2. Probiotics

Did you know that 70 to 80 percent of our immune tissue is situated in our digestive tract? Which makes our immunity very dependant on our digestive system.

When we keep a healthy gut, germs have less of a chance to grab a hold. So one of the most important things you can do to help your child’s immune system to develop and keep him healthy now and well into the future is to optimize his gut health.

Probiotics are good bacteria that help maintain good intestinal health. Natural probiotics 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. 

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 old. Klaire Labs is the brand recommended by our pediatrician.

  • Klaire Labs for infants comes as a powder and can be mixed with breast milk or formula. I’ve been giving this probiotic to my son from 6 months up until 3 years old. He enjoyed getting the powder in his mouth when he got older. One bottle will last quite long – up to 6 months. 
  • Klair Labs Children’s Chewable – these yummy gummies are for older kids. 

For more affordable options, check Wholefoods. Make sure you get the probiotic from the fridge area and look for the ones that have big variety of bacteria. 

8 best natural immune boosters for kids - water, elderberry, spices, garlic, kefir, bone broth

3. 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 (for more information on this you can read my 6 basic nutrients we need to include in our children’s diet blog post).

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 fruits in your child’s everyday meals.

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.

Bonus: As a bonus for joining my weekly newsletter, download my free guide to an optimal child nutrition plan. Read through it, print out the last page and stick it on your fridge. It’ll help you choose the right combination of foods to include in your child’s everyday meal for his healthy diet.

 

4. Zinc

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.

5. Water

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.

Please note that sugary drinks, juice, soups do not count to the minimum amount of 5-6 glasses of water per day needed for children. 

Tip: 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.

Related: Everything Parents Need To Know About The Flu

 

Infographic of 8 natural immune boosters for kids

6. Vitamin D

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.

Metagenics – D3 Liquid is the supplement I use for my son. Because it’s liquid it absorbs better. I just pour one drop into his milk every other day. The bottle says for children age 4 and above but I’ve been giving it to my son since he was 6 months following my son’s pediatrician’s recommendation. Make sure to check with your pediatrician too. 

vitamin D as an immune booster for kids

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.  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 greatest preventive measures. And even if you’re already fighting off a cold or the flu, bone broth can speed up healing.

Whether 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 😉

bone broth as an immune booster for kids

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 meal but will 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.

One Last Thing

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!

 

What About You?

Is there any other method you use as an immune booster for kids? Please share with us in the comments below.

 

8 Natural Ways to Boost Your Child’s Immune System for Fall and Winter

19 thoughts on “8 Natural Ways to Boost Your Child’s Immune System for Fall and Winter”

  1. Great tips!!! Should I do a little elderberry every day? Or only when my child starts to show symptoms of getting sick?

    1. As all these methods help to boost immunity, I start giving my son the elderberry syrup somewhere in September. We just finished our bottle. It comes with a measuring cup so you’ll know how much to give your little one, Tosca. The best thing is to do everything to avoid the sickness, that’s how I look at it. But if a child does show symptoms of getting sick, elderberry can also speed up recovery. Hope this helps 🙂

  2. I’ve heard many good things about bone broth! I need to start incorporating it in my daughters food! Thank you for sharing!

    1. I am glad you found it helpful, Lynn! Ever since I learned about all the benefits of bone broth, I try to make all my soups half water/half bone broth 🙂

    1. I am so glad you found it helpful! I really hope it helps you and girl to stay healthier throughout the fall-winter season!

    1. Yes, a humidifier is a must for me during colder months. I know I need to turn it on when my son’s nose starts to get dry 🙂

    1. Exactly, these are good not only for children but everyone. I try to use most of these methods for myself as well 🙂

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