“Back to school” is synonymous with fresh notebooks, new friends, and unfortunately, illness. These illnesses may occur because of unwashed hands, sharing snacks or toys, dirty classrooms, or exposure to microorganisms due to the hands-on curiosity of children.
As a parent, you can encourage hand washing and hygienic habits, but even these practices can’t guarantee your child an escape from the coughs and colds of back-to-school season. One of the best ways to support your child’s health as they head back to school? Boost their immune system with some simple steps this summer.
How to Boost Your Child’s Immune System
Send Them Outside
Vitamin D, found in sunshine, plays a major role in your child’s immune system (among other things), so encourage play time outside each day, especially on sunny days. Don’t forget to lather on sunscreen; it doesn’t negatively affect vitamin D absorption in most kids and adults.
Letting your kids get a little dirty outside can also help boost their immune system – soil is full of beneficial bacteria that can contribute to a healthy gut microbiome and immune system!
A Diverse, Nutritious Diet
Feed your children fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains and proteins for a well-balanced diet and healthy habit creation. A nutritional diet can also boost their immune system. How? Your child’s gut contains millions of bacteria that support their health and immune system; it’s estimated that 70% of our immune system resides in our digestive tract. When you feed your children a healthy, diverse diet, the food feeds their gut bacteria and helps ensure their digestive system is functioning optimally. In turn, their well-functioning gut creates a stronger immune system.
Examples of good-for-your-gut foods include:
- Low-sugar fruits like berries, watermelon, and kiwis
- Fibrous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and leafy greens
- Foods with probiotics like kefir, yogurt, and kimchi
Be Mindful of Antibiotic Use
On the flip side, taking antibiotics can harm your child’s gut ecosystem, which can weaken their immune system. Avoid antibiotics unless necessary, and when a course is prescribed, consider giving your kids probiotics, prebiotics, and colostrum to regain a healthy gut.
Get Enough Sleep
Too many nights of poor sleep can weaken your child’s immune system and its ability to respond to unwanted microorganisms. Since summer sleep schedules tend to be flexible, try implementing an early bedtime for the week leading up to school. That way, when your kids go back to school, they’ll be well-rested and equipped to handle exposure to unwanted intruders.
The tips above can help boost your children’s immune system, but in a world of sneezing, coughing, and sharing drinks, they still may come down with something. If they do, be sure to keep your pantry stocked with kid-friendly healthy foods and hydrating electrolyte beverages.
The average American child contracts up to six illnesses each year. If you can mitigate just one, your entire family will be happier and healthier!