Miserable cranky children, who keep you busy with their runny noses all day, and up with a cough all night, are nobody’s idea of a good time. As the weather gets colder, all us parents have to contend with snotty kids. That’s life, right?
It is true that in winter we are all more susceptible to viral infections. But a robust immune system will fight most of them off before symptoms take hold.
So how do you strengthen an immune system?
1. Ensure kids eat lots of veggies. Immune system requires nutrients for optimal function, and there is nothing like vegetables to provide nutrients in abundance.
2. Limit your kids’ sugar intake. That means no soft drinks, no fruit juices, no breakfast cereals and other processed foods – all sources of hidden sugar. Consuming 85 g of simple sugars (such as sucrose, fructose, honey, fruit juice) depresses white blood cell activity by 50% for 1 to 5 hours. White blood cells are your body’s defense mechanism, which fights foreign invaders, including viral infections.
3. Make sure your child has plenty of citrus fruits, kiwifruit, broccoli, capsicum, paw paw – all rich in Vitamin C, which is vital for immune function.
4. Put garlic and onion into everything you cook. Both are potent antivirals and immune stimulants.
5. Zinc is another nutrient, which is super important for the immune system. Meat and seafood are the richest sources of zinc, as well as beans and cheese.
6. Vitamin D is incredibly important, and unfortunately is so commonly deficient in children! Sensible sun exposure is by far the best source of Vitamin D, but bear in mind – sunscreen blocks Vitamin D production! Make sure your children receive a few minutes every day (especially in summer) of direct sunlight on their faces and arms. In winter – supplement Vitamin D.
7. Avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary! While antibiotics save lives, they are absolutely unnecessary, and in fact very harmful, when given during viral illnesses. Not only are they not effective against viruses, they destroy your child’s gut flora, which is responsible for a big chunk of their immune function.
If, despite your efforts, your kids picked up a cold – don’t worry. It’s actually normal and healthy for children to experience 2-3 viral illnesses every year, it’s their immune system’s training wheels. To teat a cold rest, drink plenty of fluids and see a naturopath if your child gets too many colds or the symptoms don’t go away within a week.