If your littles ones are prone to getting sick a lot, you’re probably desperate for ways to help them to fight back. Not least because they’ll often spread it around the rest of the family too!
Kids tend to fall ill pretty often as their immune systems haven’t been exposed to all of the nasty germs that they’ll come into contact with. That doesn’t mean that you can’t improve their immunity and make them a bit less likely to get sick so often. Here are some tips to boost your family’s immunity.
Serve Up Immunity Boosting Foods
Lots of fruits and vegetables are great for boosting immunity, especially ones that contain vitamin C. This is one of the nutrients that isn’t stored in the body so you need to be consuming it every day for the best benefits.
Citrus fruits are a great choice so make sure that your family are eating plenty of oranges, tangerines and grapefruit. Capsicums are also a good source of vitamin C (especially the red variety) and actually contain more than citrus fruits! Kiwi and papaya also contain vitamin C.
Iron is another nutrient to pay close attention to. Stock up on spinach, legumes, quinoa, dates, dried apricots and pumpkin seeds to keep your family’s iron intake up. Combining iron with vitamin C helps it to be absorbed more easily. Have a glass of orange juice or lemon water or squeeze some lemon or lime on your meal.
Zinc is also an underrated mineral for immunity. You can find zinc in pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas, oats. and tofu.
Avoid sugars, additives and preservatives that can weaken a child’s immune system.
Breastfeed for as long as possible as breastmilk contains antibodies, anti-viruses, anti-parasites and anti-allergies, along with all its other nutrients and benefits. You can also offer expressed milk to older children or add to their meals when they are ill.
Other foods and drinks that can improve your family’s immunity include:
Garlic has been used to treat infections for thousands of years
Ginger is anti inflammatory and can help to fight a sore throat and ease nausea
Spinach and broccoli, which both contain lots of antioxidants
“Live” coconut yogurt may be able to protect against illness by improving gut health and making your immune system stronger
Almonds contain vitamin E, which is a hugely underrated nutrient for keeping the immune system healthy. It’s recommended to avoid whole nuts until at least 3, you can grind them up and add to their meals or smoothies for under 3’s
Green tea is packed with a EGCG, a powerful antioxidant that has been linked to better immunity
Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi can increase your gut microbiome, a healthy gut = a healthy mind and body
Sufficient levels of vitamin D is important to ensure our bodies function properly as well as enhancing our immune function.
Mushrooms are a great plant based source of vitamin D and many studies have found regular consumption to increase immunity. Medicinal mushroom elixirs like reishi and cacao are an easy way to include these in your child’s daily diet, Airlie loves mushroom teas.
Adequate intake of vitamin D is unlikely to be achieved through dietary means, adequate sunlight exposure is important and in some cases a supplement may be required. Infants need to be exposed for 2 hours a week if just their face is exposed or 30 minutes a week with just a nappy on (Specker et al 1985). It’s important for them to have sunlight exposure without sunscreen, avoiding the hottest times of the day. In winter 2-3 hrs a week is needed.
Hand Washing is Vital
A lot of the time, sickness happens because germs on the hands have been transferred to the eyes, mouth or nose. This is why it’s so important to wash your hands regularly and make sure that your family do too, especially before eating. I also wash our hands after being at the park, being outside and getting home after being out. Hand hygiene is one of the best things you can do for reducing illness, especially if it’s done in the right way.
If your little ones are at daycare, you’ll want to know that this also extends to the staff too as they can inadvertently pass on germs too, especially when they’re changing diapers and dealing with runny noses!
For those times when it’s just not practical or possible to keep hands clean, carrying hand sanitiser is a must! It’s super convenient for killing germs while you’re out and about and you can get alcohol free types if you’re worried that it will lead to dry hands. Being exposed to different bacteria is also important to increase our resistance to harmful bugs so it’s also important not to go overboard on the hand sanitiser.
Practice Good Hygiene in General
It’s also helpful to teach children how to demonstrate good hygiene in general. This includes not sharing food, drinks, utensils and other items that can make it easier for germs to be passed around.
Another tip involves making sure that your little ones know the importance of using tissues to wipe runny eyes or noses, rather than their hands. And teach them to cough and sneeze into their upper sleeve. This makes it a lot less likely that they’ll transfer germs from their hands to these areas. Just make sure it’s always a clean tissue!
Wipe Down Surfaces Regularly
Surfaces can be a breeding ground for germs so it makes sense to wipe them down regularly with a natural antibacterial cleaner. The same goes for anything that your child is likely to come into contact with such as toys, television remotes, light switches and door handles.
When one of the family is sick, you’re probably going to want to wipe down everything they touch to reduce the chance that anyone else will get ill from touching the same things.
When choosing an antibacterial cleaner I recommend avoiding those supermarket brand cleaners that contain all those weird names you can’t pronounce. Most are toxic and bad for our health and the environment. You can easily make up a household cleaner with white vinegar and essential oils, I also add a touch of castile soap or natural hand wash.
Wash Bedding and Blankets When Someone is Sick
Next time any member of the family gets sick, make sure that you wash their bedding as soon as they’re better so they don’t get reinfected. Don’t forget about comfort blankets and towels too. These can harbor germs long after the original sickness has been and gone and they can make other members of the family sick too.
I hope these simple tips help you and your family stay healthy and well this winter.
Here is a summary of my tips to stop your child getting sick:
Serve up immunity boosting foods with vitamin C, iron and zinc. Include garlic, ginger, green tea, live coconut yoghurt, almonds and fermented foods. Avoid sugars, additives and preservatives.
Vitamin D with adequate sunshine and mushrooms.
Regular hand washing, especially before eating.
Practice good hygiene by not sharing food and drinks, using tissues and teaching kids to cough and sneeze into their upper sleeve.
Wipe down surfaces regularly using natural antibacterial spray.
Wash bedding and blankets when someone is sick.