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Tips for Kid’s Immune Health

Jennifer Brix, ND

Little girl washing her hands

While our children’s immunity is always on our mind, fall is often the time of year we start to see those respiratory symptoms making their way into the home, making it the perfect time to support your child’s immune system.*

With the importance of seasonal respiratory support from November to March, getting a head start on supporting healthy immunity for the whole family is super important!* To face the cold weather with more robust internal defenses (and fewer school absences!), here are five ways to support your child’s immune system.*

1. Soap Up Often!

Kids are more susceptible to winter respiratory symptoms  because they attend schools and other group settings and are not always the most mindful about hygiene. The #1 way to stay healthy and well is to practice frequent handwashing, so encourage your child to lather up regularly.

Have your child lather for 20 seconds or say the ABCs twice. Make sure kids avoid the habit of touching or rubbing their face, especially the nose, eyes, and mouth, and have them wash up before and after they eat, and when they come inside.

2. Take a Multivitamin

Another lifestyle factor that can help keep your kids well is ensuring they are eating unprocessed, fresh, and whole foods low in sugar.* Because it’s not always easy to ensure your kids are eating well-balanced meals 100% of the time, especially for time-crunched families and picky eaters, one of the best ways to close nutritional gaps is with supplemental support.*

A good multivitamin will contain a wide array of vitamins and minerals to support healthy teeth, bones, skin, nerves, brain, metabolism, and immunity.* Look for the multivitamins containing zinc, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin K2, especially those that are sugar-free and naturally sweetened with stevia and xylitol.*

3. Serve More Probiotic-Rich Foods

A healthy immune system is a crucial factor in winter wellness.*[1] With roughly 70% of our immune system being located in our digestive tract, probiotics are another way to support healthy immunity.These good, healthy bacteria may help support immunity, maintain wellness, and improve digestion and nutrient absorption.*

Building up good gut bacteria can be achieved by serving up more probiotic-rich food, and probiotic supplements may offer additional support.* Fermented foods such as pickles, kombucha (they have many flavored kinds that kids would like), or unsweetened yogurts mixed with fresh chopped or pureed fruit. If you have an extra picky eater, try a kid-friendly probiotic powder that you can mix into their favorite drink, or sprinkle onto their cereal for a painless dose of immune-supporting good bacteria.*

4. Out with the Sugar and in with Vitamin C-Rich Fruits and Veggies

Six-year-old girl eating an orange at the kitchen table

Sugar has been shown to alter our microbiome in some pretty extreme ways, like feeding the less healthy sugar-loving bacteria, which can then crowd out beneficial, immune-supporting bacteria.* Sugar has also been shown to decrease the effectiveness of our white blood cells. Instead of sugary snacks, have fruits rich in vitamin C and antioxidants like oranges and blueberries. Load up on fiber-rich veggies (also good for the gut) such as carrots with protein-rich hummus and nut butter on celery. 

5. Get Some Sunshine in a Bottle

Outside time is so important not only for the exercise and fresh air, but for the vitamin D also known as the “sunshine vitamin.”

Even though we need to encourage our kids to be outside as much as possible all year round, come fall, the amount of time they can really enjoy the sunshine is limited. The body absorbs sunlight using cholesterol to convert it to a usable form of vitamin D, which is necessary for optimal immune function.*

Vitamin D can support both the innate and adaptive immune responses and a deficiency in vitamin D may have immune repercussions.*[2] Kids can stock up now by taking 1000 IU of vitamin D daily to help compensate for what we aren’t getting during our long, dark, northern winters.*

With appropriate vitamin and mineral support, a healthy lifestyle, and good hygiene we can get our kids back on their feet again, and maintain winter wellness.*

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  1. Group WH. Nonpharmaceutical interventions for pandemic influenza, international measures. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2006; 12(1):81-87.
  2. Maguire JL, et al. Prevalence and predictors of low vitamin D concentrations in urban Canadian toddlers. Paediatrics & Child Health. 2011; 16(2):e11–e15.
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Dr. Brix completed her professional training at the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine.

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