6 ways to boost kids’ immunity

Boost kid's immunity
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Expert Talk

Vikash Kumar | founder & CEO of Bibo (Hilt Brands) – a healthcare products company | Father, Ex-Investment Banker

As per WHO, “13.7 million of deaths in 2016, amounting to 24% of the global deaths, are due to modifiable environmental risks. This means that almost 1 in 4 of total global deaths are linked to environmental conditions.”

These stats are scary. And, it calls for immediate action – boost kids’ immunity to fight with increased environmental risks.

Let’s understand immunity first.

Sneezing is good! Because it indicates that your immune system is working. Frequent sneezing and coughing are the indicators that your immunity is not functioning effectively and you need to take measures immediately.

The overall ability of the body to fight against disease-causing microorganisms is called immunity. Immunity is of two types – Innate immunity and Acquired (or adaptive) immunity.

Innate immunity occurs by birth and is our first line of defence that fight with infection. it consists of four types of barriers – Physical (skin that keeps out the majority of pathogens, mucus coating that traps pathogens, etc), Physiological (Acid in the stomach that destroys pathogens, tears in eyes that produce enzymes that help create anti-bacterial compounds, etc), Cellular (White blood cells, macrophages, etc), and Cytokine (proteins secreted from virus-infected cells). A healthy lifestyle is very important to boost innate immunity at all the levels.

The immunity which develops by exposure to specific foreign agents like microorganisms is called acquired immunity and is characterized by memory. When the body first encounters a pathogen, it produces a response that takes a long time to develop and is of low intensity. It is called primary immune response. And if the body encounters the same pathogen, it produces a highly intensified and quick response. It is called secondary immune response. Exposure to mild infections helps in building acquired immunity. Vaccines are made using this principal.

Also read: How to prepare our kids to cope with air pollution risks

Steps to boost immunity in kids

1. Be physically active

Research studies have shown that a moderate exercise bout provides a positive boost to both the innate and the acquired immune systems. Each bout of moderate aerobic exercise instantaneously mobilizes millions of immune cells.

So, keep the children physically active. Involve them in at least one professional sport, not for the competition but as a regular physical workout. And, if the kid likes the sport, it is a good news. Explore better opportunities to keep the motivation level up. Even at home ensure that kid is not a couch potato. And there are several ways such as Yoga, exercising, dancing to keep them active and engaged. Make it as a family fun time and do these activities together. After all, your immunity is as important as kids’.

Tips on physical activities for kids: How to keep kids healthy and physically fit

2. Take Sunlight

Make them to spend at least 15 min in sunlight every day. We all know that sunlight is natural and abundant source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D can help in boosting the innate and adaptive immune responses. Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity and an increased susceptibility to infection. And, this may cause frequent infections in kids. The best part is that you really don’t need to spend hours in sunlight. 15 min of sunlight as a daily routine is wonderful.

3. Be hydrated

Water helps to distribute oxygen and nutrients, and flush out the waste material from the body. Staying hydrated helps body to naturally eliminate the bacteria and toxins that cause infection. Drinking plenty of liquids, especially water, is preventative type of health maintenance.

As per Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Total Water and Macronutrients (Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies), the recommended daily water intake for kid’s age groups are: 4-8 years: 1.7 litres; 9-13 years: 2.4 litres; 14-18: 3.3 litres. Note that it amounts to total water and includes all water contained in food, beverages, and drinking water. Fruits and vegetables have a much higher water content than other solid foods. Moreover, above recommendation is a generic one and actual need could be different from this, based on weight, age, sex and physical activeness.

Also, drinking lukewarm liquid at least twice a day is very good. Among other things, it helps in breaking down food faster and keeping gut healthy, helps in release toxins through sweating, and expand blood vessels which improves circulation.

4. Switch to a heathier diet

A diet lacking in one or more nutrients can impair the production and activity of immune cells and antibodies.

According to Harvard T H Chan study, “certain dietary patterns may better prepare the body for microbial attacks and excess inflammation, but it is unlikely that individual foods offer special protection. Each stage of the body’s immune response relies on the presence of many micronutrients. Diets that are limited in variety and lower in nutrients, such as consisting primarily of ultra-processed foods and lacking in minimally processed foods, can negatively affect a healthy immune system.”

Take enough nutrients – Rather than looking for magical food to boost immunity, ensure to include vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, iron, and protein rich food in your diet. Fruits and vegetables are rich source of phytonutrients, which also helps the immune system immensely.

Avoid junk food – food loaded with sugar and calories, and very low nutritional content are called junk food. Try to replace your kid’s platter of junk food by healthier and tastier options. A habit of eating healthy food should be nurtured when kids are very young, as it stays with them when they grow up.

Include herbs – Herbs like Tulsi, Mulethi, ginger, pepper are loaded with nutrients. Add them in your dishes. You can also use Kadha as natural immunity booster.

5. Follow healthy sleeping routine

T cells contribute to the body’s immune response when a potentially harmful foreign body enters the system. Studies have shown that sleep has a positive impact on the correct functioning of T cells as part of the body’s immune response. Sleep well and sleep right.

Healthy sleeping routine for kids includes

  • Sleep early, and daily around the same time.
  • Finish meal and any digital screen activity at least one hour before sleep.
  • Sleep on a tidy bed.
  • Take enough sleep (as a thumb rule – children below 13 years: >10 hours and above 13 years: 8-10 hours).

6. Maintain personal hygiene

Good personal hygiene is very important for your kids to stay healthy and ward off illnesses. Poor personal hygiene provides an ideal environment for germs to grow, leaving it vulnerable to infection. Personal hygiene includes proper handwashing, brushing teeth, bathing and nail hygiene.

  • Encourage kids to wash their hands regularly with soap. After every trip to the bathroom, before every meal, after playing outside, etc.
    • Teach them the correct technique of washing hands. Usually, we do not wash long or thoroughly enough to kill all the germs. If they do not have access to water and soap, provide them with hand sanitizer.
  • Show your kids the safe way to sneeze and cough to prevent spraying the virus into the air. Like using tissue and if not available, cough or sneeze into the crook of the elbow. Wash hands after blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing.

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patients in care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” – Thomas Edison

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