Healthy way to boost your child’s immune system in the fight against coronavirus

Vivian Ayamah is a registered nutritionist

Why the child?

Parents are very right to worry about their children’s safety and health as school reopens due to the spike in coronavirus recently. I get a lot of questions from parents like; how can I boost the immune system of my child? What are the right vitamin that can prevent my kids from getting COVID?

As children are going back to school, immunity of the children is one of the main concern of parents as flue and cold also increases aside COVID.  Children are prone to all kinds of infections because children have limited exposure to diseases and have not build the immunity to certain diseases yet. Children in schools especially daycare centers pass infections around and then take them home and pass them to their parents and siblings. Children need the right nutrition to help boost their immune system in the fight against COVID and other germs they will come into contact with. Diet is very crucial in boosting immune system and this articles gives few tips on how to help kids boost their immune system. Knowledge about the right food for healthy body is a step towards your child’s diet plan. Now let’s talk about some few tips that will answer your concern for your children’s health as they go back to school.

What can you do boost your child’s immune system?

Serve your children with healthy balanced diet: When it comes to a healthy immune system, the first thing I talk about is a healthy balanced diet. Your child’s meal should be balanced with enough protein, fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products (fat free dairy products) whiles limiting trans-fat and added sugars. The calorie requirements for your child will depend on the age of your child and activity level and we will talk about that into details in our next article

Feed your children with more probiotic rich foods: Probiotic rich foods are ideal for building good gut bacteria. Food rich in probiotics includes unsweetened yogurts mixed with chopped or pureed fruits, green banana and plantain.  Probiotics are very helpful for constipation or diarrhea and both are very common in children. Probiotics are safe for children unless your child have a compromised immune system according to Maria Samonte MD a pediatrician at Geisinger Mountain Top.

Serve more fruits and vegetables: According to William Sears M.D, Author of the Family Nutrition Book, Fruits and Vegetables are Rich in Carotenoids an Immune Boosting Phytonutrients. Turkey berries, kenaf, spinach, okra, garden eggs, carrots, beat roots, green beans, potato greens , oranges, mangoes are all  rich in carotenoid. Phytonutrients increases the production of infection fighting white blood cells and interferon. Interferon is an antibody that blocks out viruses. Phytonutrients also protects one against chronic disease such as cancer. It is important for parents to motivate their children to consume more natural fruits and vegetables whiles reducing the intake of sugar added juice. Motivate children to eat the “rainbow’’ with respect to fruits and vegetable. Children should consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Limit the consumption of processed foods. Vitamin A and E are very important to the maintenance of strong immune system, ensure your children get enough.

Allow children to have enough sleep: Having enough sleep will increase the production of cytokines and will help fight infections and reduce inflammation. Children are mostly at risk when it comes to sleep deprivation according to Kathi Kemper, M.D, Director of Center for Holistic Pediatric Education and Research at Children Hospital in Boston. Infant’s needs at least 16 hours of sleep a day, toddlers requires 11 to 14 hours of sleep and preschoolers requires 10 to 13 hours of sleep every day.

Breastfeed: WHO recommends exclusive breasting for six months and continuous breastfeeding for two years or longer after the child starts complementary feeding. Breast milk is rich in turbo charged immunity enhancing antibodies and white blood cells.  Breastfeeding can be very uncomfortable but try exclusively breastfeeding your child for six months and continue with complementary feeding for at least two years. This will reduce the risk of infection in your child aside the numerous benefits that comes with breastfeeding.

Exercise as a family: Children can also benefit from the health benefits of exercise adults enjoy like increase in the number of natural killer cells in the body. The best way to get children to exercise is when parents becomes role models themselves. Don’t just motivate them to play outside. Learn to exercise with them by jogging, playing football, biking and hiking with their children.

Avoid antibiotics: Unless is really necessary or recommended by your doctor avoid giving your children antibiotics as much as you can. Antibiotics cures infections fast but they also clears good bacteria. Cold, flue, bruises and cuts are all part of a child’s growth. The only way to help your kids is to give them healthy balanced diet and the infections will heal by itself

Give them more immunes boosting snacks; Snacking is part of child’s life and children should pay more attention to what their children snack on. It is important for parents to replace their children snack with more healthy snacks. Avoid sugar sweetened beverages. Replace you’re your kids unhealthy snack with nuts, popcorn, fruit smoothies, yogurt, banana cookies, oat cookies, whole grain crackers, a piece of fruit, milk  and cashew nuts are all sample snacks kids can try out and enjoy them.

Encourage your children to drink more water: Drinking enough water helps with blood circulation, eliminate toxins and harmful substances from the body and support metabolism. Children mostly forget about drinking water hence it is important to keep track and encourage your kids to drink more water.

Wear a mask and practice hygiene: It is important to guard against infection after boosting your children immune system. Ensure your children wash their hands with soap and water, wear their nose mask and avoid crowded places. Give more importance to your children hand washing routine before and after meals, playing outside, arriving home from school, blowing their nose, using the bathroom and playing with pets. It is important to let children select their preferred colors of soap, sanitizers and towels and that will let them enjoy their hygiene practices.

One may ask, what about supplements?

I don’t have any problem with supplements but I don’t recommend replacing natural’s nutrients with supplements. It is important to eat your vitamins and minerals naturally. Allow your children to eat fish at least twice a week, red meat trice a week and legumes at least three times a week. Let them eat eggs, cheese and dairy products as well and that will give them enough protein and other nutrients. Like I stated earlier eating variety of fruits and vegetables will give enough vitamins as well. Nuts like almonds, tiger nuts, groundnuts are all rich source of vitamin E, zinc and omega 3 fatty acids and they can help boost the immune system.  Children can have a handful of nuts every day.

On that note

A strong immune system is the first step in the fight against any form of infection. The best way to build a strong immune system is a healthy and balanced. While we build our immune system lets mask up to protect ourselves and loved one ones. We got this.

The writer is a Registered Nutritionist.

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