We love school and the education it provides, but boy does it seem to be a breeding ground for germs!
A child coming home from school with a snotty nose and cough is a common occurrence in many households.
But what if it didn't have to be that way?
Today, we want to talk about some preventive steps you can take to boost your child's immune system through nutrition, herbs, and more.
Signs Your Child Has a Poor Immune System
Before we dig into solutions, let's talk about who is most at risk.
1. They suffer frequent infections
Susceptibility to infections is the primary sign of a weakened immune system. Everyone is exposed to infectious agents on a near daily basis. But if you have a strong immune system, you’re able to fight off these germs without developing any symptoms, or if you do, they pass quickly.
However, a child with a weak immune system is more susceptible to pathogens and has a harder time fighting them off. This can materialize with exaggerated symptoms that stick around longer than they should.
2. They have an autoimmune disorder
Autoimmune disorders occur when the body’s defenses mount an immune response against itself. For example, Type 1 diabetes commonly occurs in young people.
In this condition, the immune system attacks cells of the pancreas, which produces a hormone called insulin. As a result, this impairs the production of insulin.
A child with an autoimmune disease is considered immunosuppressed due to the negative effects of their condition on the immune system.
Common autoimmune disorders of childhood, besides type 1 diabetes, include juvenile arthritis and immune thrombocytopenic purpura.
3. They have developmental delays
During development, infants and children should display a certain pattern that is the average requirement as a baseline.
For instance, it’s normal for babies to take their first steps between 9 and 12 months and should be walking at 14 or 15 months - sometimes up to 17 months.
Normal development is a factor of good nutrition and a strong immune system.
That’s why mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their children exclusively for the first 6 months after birth.
One of the advantages of breastmilk is that the mother transfers some crucial components of her immune system to her child whose immune system isn’t well developed yet.
Best Vitamins for Children’s Immune System
Vitamins play important roles in strengthening the immune system. Here are some especially helpful vitamins for kids and how they work:
A 2018 study published in the journal of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) outlines the role of vitamin A in the immune system.
One of the primary barriers to infections for any individual is the epithelium that lines body surfaces exposed to the external environment. Studies have shown that vitamin A is crucial in forming such epithelial tissue.
For instance, developmental phases of epithelial tissue such as keratinization, stratification, differentiation, and functional maturation are all caused in part by vitamin A.
Vitamin C is one of the biggest immune system boosters of all. According to this study, vitamin C works by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immunity. It also enhances the ability of immune cells to fight infections by:
Enhancing their ability to recognize harmful agents that are foreign to the body.
Facilitating the movement of immune cells to the site of infection.
Supporting the ability of immune cells to engulf offending organisms.
Generating free radicals that ultimately kill the offending microorganisms.
Vitamin B6 is known for its ability to support the biochemical reactions of the immune system. Studies show that vitamin B6 is responsible for the metabolism of amino acids as well as the metabolism of fat and glucose.
These are crucial components of the immune system because they nourish the body by providing the necessary energy requirements.
Besides that, vitamin B6 is also responsible for the development and functioning of nerves.
Zinc is not a vitamin, rather a mineral, but it is one of the most important nutrients for boosting children’s immunity.
In 2008, a study that was published in the Journal of Molecular Medicine concluded that zinc deficiency can contribute to immune dysfunction.
Foods that are rich in zinc include chickpeas, cashewd, eggs, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seed.
Herbal Immune Boosters for Kids
Besides vitamins and minerals, there are also some helpful herbs that can support and stimulate a child’s immune system.
Let’s look at a few of our favorites:
Echinacea has been used and loved for centuries for its ability to fight infection naturally. It’s rich in antioxidants like cichoric acid and flavonoids.
But more impressive than that is its alkamides, which are compounds that act as turbo boosters to worn out antioxidants.
As a result of these and other beneficial constituents of echinacea, it’s been shown to lower the risk of colds by 50% and shorten their duration by more than a day.
Studies have shown that elderberry excels in treating symptoms of cold and flu. Since such illnesses are viral in nature, treatment is typically limited to symptom relief and hydration.
Elderberry syrup does this well without side effects.
In fact, elderberry improves the ability of the immune system to fight infections so much so that the duration of symptoms can be reduced by half.
Licorice works more like echinacea, especially when used to combat coughs, flu, and colds. Licorice is a potent immune tonic and should not be used continuously for more than 4 weeks.
For acute, short-term cases, however, licorice is a fantastic way to help the body expel mucus, which of course, can morph into dangerous upper respiratory infections if allowed to accumulate and stagnate.
Many people rely on ginger as the go-to herbal remedy when they are sick as it is naturally antibacterial and great for soothing nausea associated with the flu.
It’s a good choice for boosting the immune system in kids too, though most children find it too spicy. If this is the case with your child, you can flavor it with some honey to make it palatable.
Natural Ways to Protect Against Germs in School
Most of the methods to prevent your child from coming home from school sick rely on their ability to maintain proper sanitation and hygiene practices.
Here are some simple tips:
1. Teach your child to capture their cough or sneeze with a clean cloth
Most childhood germs are contracted through the respiratory system because they are primarily airborne. Simply covering their nose and mouth when they sneeze can minimize and/or prevent germs from getting airborne to infect someone else.
Teach your child that if everyone practiced this simple habit in school then infections from airborne germs would reduce significantly.
2. Teach your child to keep their hands away from their face
Some germs are spread when they touch an infected surface and then use that same hand to touch vulnerable entry points of the body such as their mouth, eyes, and nose.
So it’s best practice to keep hands away from the face.
Where possible, encourage your child to wash their hands frequently or carry hand sanitizer and use it appropriately.
3. Teach your child good hand washing techniques
Hand washing is one of the best and easiest ways of staying healthy.
Although most people recommend washing hands after visiting the bathroom or before eating, it’s good practice to wash your hands after touching any unclean surface.
Hand sanitizer comes in handy when there is no visible dirt on your hands or when you simply can’t get to a sink.
4. Encourage healthy foods
Nutrition is important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Children who eat a balanced diet enriched with essential nutrients and vitamins have a greater chance of fighting off common childhood infections caused by germs.
Try to encourage more whole foods and make them fun like making a butterfly out of a celery stick and apple slices!
With flu season quickly approaching, we hope these tips help you and your little ones stay healthy this year.
If you're looking for kid-friendly herbal immune support, try our Little Warrior tincture, specially formulated to strengthen children's immune systems!