As we head into winter, immunity is likely to be at the top of most of people’s health concerns. And with kids back at school, it’s no surprise parents in particular are asking how to protect their little ones’ immunity levels, with searches for ‘kids vitamins’ a trending search term on Google in September.
1. Lack of sleep increases children’s risk of getting sick
Research shows that quality sleep is essential when it comes to health for both children and adults. While sleep won’t make your child invincible to infection, being well rested is key to the proper functioning of your immune system. If your child is not getting enough sleep, they are three times more likely to get sick if they encounter an infection. Sleep helps your body produce fresh new immune cells and it’s anti-inflammatory, helping calm any overzealous immune responses.” “Poor sleep can occur following too much screen time (blue like from screens is a known sleep disrupter and kids are much more sensitive to this than adults), not getting enough exercise, fresh air and sunlight during the day to reinforce their internal circadian rhythm, lack of a sleep schedule and undue stress or anxiety, as well as lack of a calming routine especially in the evenings.
2. Vitamin D is key for immune function
Not only important for bone health, vitamin D is a key nutrient for maintaining proper immune function. Vitamin D is known to enhance our first line immune responses and this helps children’s immune systems get quickly on top of an infection. It also helps regulate how aggressively we react to an infection, tempering the immune response to prevent it from overshooting. If children don’t maintain a healthy level of vitamin D all year round then they are much more likely to become deficient in winter when those colds and flu germs are more prevalent.
3. Good hygiene goes a long way
Although our immune systems are working hard every day to fend off infections, children may be more vulnerable in winter as many of these germs are seasonal and prefer cooler climes. The best way kids can prevent illness is by carrying out good hygiene practices like learning how to thoroughly and regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their faces, minimise exposure to sick people and learning good tissue etiquette.
4. Don’t underestimate the importance of a balanced diet
Ensure children are getting enough protein as it is the building block for growing kids and super important for their immune system to make antibodies and other molecules involved in protecting us. Also be sure to nurture their developing gut microbiota with a diet rich in plant-based diversity, ensure they drink enough water and avoid nutritional deficiencies though a healthy balanced diet.
5. Elderberries can reduce the length of a cold
Elderberry products are popular with kids during cold and flu season as they can be given as a tasty syrup. Plus, they are a great source of antioxidants and vitamin C. There are some small clinical studies showing a benefit in reducing length and severity of colds during winter.
Try Sambucol Black Elderberry Liquid For Kids 120ml (£8.99), available from Holland & Barrett, a great tasting liquid containing Black Elderberries and Vitamin C which supports the immune system.