While a lot of parents are secretly happy our beloved little ones are back learning and playing with their friends at school, we all dread the unwanted germs they can start bringing home. Building up the immune system is important for both parents and children to fend off the nasties going around the playground as they could end up back in your home.
A few easy tweaks to a child's diet like increasing immune-boosting foods (while decreasing those that block immunity) can do wonders to improve their health all year round, but especially right now with the change of seasons. Here are tried and tested tips to prevent daycare sickness for your kids and increase their strength and immunity with a few natural home remedies.
How to increase immunity in children naturally
1. Have fun eating the rainbow
Fill their plates full of bright colourful fresh veggies focusing on green leafy veggies like kale, broccoli, cauliflower and fruits like berries which are still in season. Try to give them the widest variety possible, and make it fun! Each different colour represents a load of different minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin C which is needed to support their immunity. Try to sneak in veggies into smoothies, soups and pasta sauces if you find it difficult to feed them vegetables straight up.
2. Remember all-important protein
"My child keeps getting sick at school" is a common statement spoken among parents. To prevent and avoid kids picking up germs, introduce foods like fish, poultry, nuts and seeds, beans and lean meats with each meal and snack. This is essential for healthy immunity. If they’re snacking on fruit, try to give them a handful of crunchy pumpkin seeds with an apple or spread some nut butter on sliced banana or fruit and make fun sandwiches. This will also help to keep them feeling fuller for longer.
3. Add in mushrooms whenever you can
Mushrooms are full of beta glucans which go directly to support the white blood cells that target threatening substances like cold and flu viruses. Go for all varieties like shitake, chestnut, portobello and try to add them to foods like soups and bolognese sauces where they can go relatively unnoticed!
4. Reduce refined and added sugars
Eating or drinking too much sugar curbs immune system cells that attack bacteria. Swap fruit juices and fizzy drinks for water flavoured with fresh berries, lemon or lime and replace sweet snacks with immune-enhancing goji berries, humous and crudités or fresh fruit.
5. Up your egg game
Eggs are a great source healthy fats and choline which is important for memory and learning as well as helping the immune system along. Most kids love eggs and soldiers or scrambled eggs which makes for a pretty perfect breakfast to get them school-ready.
6. Essential fatty acids
Essential fatty acids are also key for brain function, memory, mood, learning and fending off cold and flu symptoms in kids. Try to offer children wild oily fish like salmon and mackerel which you can hide in fish cakes or homemade fish fingers for fussy eaters. You can also sprinkle seeds like hemp, chia or flaxseeds which are great in smoothies or in porridge.
7. Increase zinc-rich foods
Zinc supports the immune system. The best sources are beef, lamb and the not-so-kid-friendly oysters, but you can also find zinc in cashews, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. You could also consider giving a zinc supplement or a multi-nutrient supplement that contains zinc. When taken regularly, zinc supplements have been shown to decrease viral infections which subsequently decreases the need for antibiotics and school absences (1). Consult your Doctor before giving your child any supplements.
8. Boost gut health with probiotic-rich foods and a probiotic supplement
We know now that more than 70% of our immune systems lies in our gut so it goes without saying that we need to keep our gut bugs happy in order to fend off colds and flu (2). You could try introducing your children to foods rich in natural probiotics like sauerkraut and kefir drinks which are becoming increasingly easier to find, but keep clear of sugar-laden drinks found in the supermarket! If your kids are on the picky side, even taking natural bio-live organic yoghurt will be a great place to start.
What to do if you think your child has a cold or flu
When you think your child is pooly, it may be hard to determine when and if you should keep them home from school or if you should go straight to the Doctor. It's advisable to always seek medical help and professional care when you're concerned with your child's health to avoid any further health issues.
See a Doctor straight away if you notice signs in your child like:
• high fever
• breathing problems
• aches and pain like stomach ache, headache or earache
• vomiting or diarrhea
• lack of energy
• back and neck pain
In the meantime, make sure your child gets plenty of fluids and rest, and consider the above home remedies as well as good old chicken soup, which can reduce congestion and inflammation caused by a common cold. Before giving your child any medication, be sure to talk with your Doctor about the best way to care for your child.
Here's to a healthy school year.
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