Being outdoors exposes our kids to a wide range of germs, bacteria and viruses that we cannot see. We cannot lock the children at home forever, though. But we can always find ways to boost the immune system and increase their chances of overcoming all sorts of chronic disease.
The immune system is our first line of defence against an illness or infection. Babies and children, however, have under-developed immunity, which won’t peak until their teenage years. While catching a cold or experiencing bouts of flu among kids is typical, immune boosters can help reduce their sick days. Here are a few healthy habits you can do and adopt.
Choose to Breastfeed Your Baby if Possible
Breast milk is one of the best (and cheapest) immunity-boosting foods that mums can give to their babies. Colostrum, in particular, is the thin yellowish milk that flows out a few days after delivery. It is especially rich in antibodies to help babies combat various medical conditions.
So, when you can, choose to breastfeed your newborn for six months, or at least up to their first three months. If housework or office duties get in the way, you can try using a breast pump and storing your breast milk to preserve its quality.
Ensure Sufficient Hours of Sleep
If lack of sleep results in grumpy, less focused adults, the same thing happens to children. Worse, sleep deprivation also makes them hyperactive and more likely to throw a tantrum. In the long run, continuously disrupted sleep time can make them prone to several deficiencies and diseases.
Like all other parts of our body, our immunity needs sufficient rest to combat harmful microbes and toxins that get inside. So, make sure to boost the immune system by letting the children get their required hours of sleep. You can also use various tactics, like screen time reduction, to help school kids establish a proper sleep schedule.
Serve Nutrient-Dense Meals
Once your baby can start eating solids, food variety should be your priority. Introduce new tastes and textures to your little ones to widen their food options and overcome allergies. Prepare homemade baby meals whenever possible to ensure optimum freshness and nutrient content.
As your kids grow older, make it a point that they enjoy healthy and balanced meals every day. Teach them how good food can boost the immune system and prevent them from getting sick. Ask them to help you prep in the kitchen, too, to keep them in the healthy-eating zone up to adulthood. Here are other immunity-boosting foods to add to their healthy diet:
- Serve more vegetables. Be creative and find ways to make your little picky eaters at home enjoy their veggies.
- Introduce probiotics. Aim for a healthy digestive tract! Incorporate yoghurt, kefir, buttermilk and cheese with active cultures into kids’ meals. Look for kid-friendly recipes that use fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut or miso, too.
- Cook more oily fish. Salmon, mackerel, tuna and herring are foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight infection. Whitefish types like cod and haddock also contain small doses of omega-3. Older kids can also get omega-3 from whole walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts for as long as they do not have nut allergies.
- Choose lean meats. Lean protein is essential for strength building. Meat also contains zinc that can boost the immune system and speed up wound healing.
- Replace sweets with fresh fruit. Kids should get their sugar needs from whole foods than store-bought treats, juices or supplements. Homemade snacks are great alternatives, too.
Encourage Regular Exercise at Home
We all know how physical activity (and a balanced diet) can bring wonders to our overall health. A recent study even concludes that exercise can strengthen our immunity to fight viruses like COVID-19. So, bond with your little ones at home and start your yoga, Zumba or aerobics routine every weekend or after school.
Better yet, let your children play or have fun games outdoors. Encourage all sorts of sports like basketball, soccer, bike riding or swimming. Find time for picnics, beach trips or hiking. Aside from getting sufficient exercise, these family activities also help relieve stress and anxiety.
Being outdoors also exposes them to relatively harmless elements that can build up their immunity against serious infections. Sun exposure also gives them the essential vitamins that boost the immune system.
Teach the Kids Proper Hygiene
Knowing how to keep our bodies clean can take a load off our immune system, so it can concentrate on other pressing health issues. So, make it a point to teach kids early how to brush their teeth, take a shower and change clothes. Let them do age-appropriate chores like washing dishes, cleaning the house or helping with the laundry, too.
It’s also crucial to educate our kids about germ spread or transmission and how to avoid it. Look for kid-friendly videos online about it to make it easier to understand. Here are some good habits you can teach:
- Cover their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing. Teach them the habit of bringing a pack of tissue or handkerchief when going out. Show them how to use their elbow to cover their face, too.
- Wash their hands before eating or touching their face. You can reemphasise this habit while telling them what to do after using the toilet or during potty training. Teach the 20-second hand-washing rule while showing them how to scrub their hands properly.
- Know when and when not to share. Sharing is an essential life skill, but make sure to teach your kids the limits. Make them realise that refraining to share some items like cutlery and water bottles will keep them and their playmates healthy.
Health is wealth, as they say. And it is indeed something that parents like us can pass down to our kids. Make it easier for them to understand its value by being a good example whom they can follow.