Boosting immunity for kids
Whether your kids are going back to school virtually or they are physically going back into a classroom, immunity is always a big concern for parents as cold, the flu season and nowadays COVID-19 looms ahead.
While all we hear about is COVID-19 this year. Especially a new variant that just this past week that has infected 94k kids, there is not much they can do to protect themselves beyond guidelines already set by the CDC.
But kids still need certain nutrients and vitamins to help boost their immune system to help protect against all the germs they will face, either in the classroom or at home.
The best foods for immunity-boosting in kids
Knowing the best foods that can help boost immunity can help you meal-plan for your child, whether that’s mealtime or an afterschool snack.
One of the most important minerals that can help a kid’s immune system is zinc. It is typically found in protein-based foods. So oysters, red meat, poultry are some of the best sources.
Probiotics and prebiotics
It is very important to give your kids a good source of probiotics. They help create a balance between healthy and unhealthy bacteria in the gut.
You cannot go wrong with yogurt, because not only it is a kid’s favorite, it is full of probiotic. Other options like kefir, sauerkraut and pickles are good sources. Also apple cider vinegars are a good way to work in probiotics into a diet. Parents should be sure to get their kids prebiotics which are plant fibers that stimulate the growth of good bacteria. Some sources are plantain, yams and asparagus.
Nuts and seeds
Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, hemp seed, chai seeds all are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. They source protein, fiber, mono and polyunsaturated fats, potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese and vitamins E, B6, B12 and A.
Fruit and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables, provide various antioxidants which protects cells from damage and disease. Foods rich in antioxidant include berries, like spinach, kale, collard and mustard greens.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins A, C, E, B2, B6, K, potassium, folate, magnesium and zinc.
And yes, vitamin C is key to immunity and available in citrus fruits like oranges, limes, lemons and grapefruit.
Whole food is always the best options to get all your nutrients. But should you come short on your nutrients in spite of a well-balanced diet, this is when supplements make sense.
Supplements make sense when you are dealing with a picky eater or you have a kid that just do not have a large appetite or just struggling with a kid’s diet to get them the nutrients they need. In those instances, supplements make total sense.
A perfect example for supplementation would be vitamin D. While kids can get vitamin D soaking up sunshine, it is less evident for instance in Florida when wearing sunscreen, during the cooler months and during the school year.
It is not just food that can help your kids stay healthy throughout the school year. Good sleeping habits, exercise, stress management and immunization are other strategies that can help with immunity.
Good sleep habits
Lack of sleep can weaken your kid’s immunity because the body cannot regenerate itself properly keeping their immune systems functioning as best they can.
Exercise is very important, because it keeps the body moving, facilitating a faster circulation of the immune cells in our body affording us a stronger immunity. Parents need to ensure their keeps keep their bodies moving.
Keeping stress and anxiety at a minimum will also help your kid’s immunity. Especially nowadays with the COVID-19 risk of infection looming, to the change in the classroom to the stress of being separated from friends it is all the more important to arm them with tools to help them cope effectively.
Parents need to be in constant communication with their kids to find ways to minimize any negative feelings they may be experiencing during these uncertain times.
It is imperative that your kids are up to date with their immunization, the goal is the protect them against preventable conditions that can weaken their immune systems and leave them vulnerable to the colds, the flu and obviously COVID-19.
Boosting immunity for the teachers
Teachers, do not let cold, flu season and COVID-19 get the best of you! Even when it seems like the whole school is sick, there are things you can do to boost your immune system. The following are some easy tricks you can follow.
It is essential to have a diet rich in protein, which is the building block for our tissues and body as a whole. In order to meet your protein requirements, you can: eat fish at least twice a week, red meat twice or three times a week, legumes such as beans, chickpeas and lentils two to three times a week and if you are not allergic, have eggs, cheese every morning.
You also would benefit from eating fruits and vegetables that are in season to get vitamins naturally. Probiotics like yogurt or kefir, elderberry syrup can help boost your immune system. Nuts like walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts are high in vitamin E, zinc and omega 3 fatty acids that also help strengthen the immune system. Let us not forget vitamins C, D3 and zinc.
Practicing good hygiene/ Wearing masks
All germs, including the coronavirus are easily transmitted as a result of poor hygiene and contact with other people or objects or via oral and nasal secretions. Therefore, you should wash your hands with plenty of water and soap for at least 20-30 seconds before and after meals. Studies show that for respiratory illnesses alone, washing hands can reduce illness by more than 20 percent. Also, taking a bath or shower every day after going outside, would be a good idea. Teachers, you should be wearing a mask when in class as you do not know which kid might be an asymptomatic carrier. Especially the mask becomes a necessity when interacting with special need students due to the proximity.
Staying well hydrated is a good idea as it helps regulate blood circulation, supports the metabolism and facilitates the elimination of harmful substances and toxins from the body.
Establish a sleeping schedule
It is very important to get enough sleep, as there are functions in your body that get repaired during your sleep. When you are tired and sleepless, your body’s resistance decreases, and you get sick very easily. For this reason, do not be afraid to skip that late-night grading. Your sleep is important to keeping you from getting sick and staying healthy overall
We get it. Between planning and grading, it may seem hard to find time to squeeze in a workout. But, exercising and staying active also strengthens the immune system and increases body resistance against diseases. It achieves that by improving circulation throughout the body and with good circulation, immune cells can move more effectively throughout the body, making you less prone to illness.
Keeping room well ventilated
Classrooms need to be well ventilated. If not, germs stay trapped longer contributing to respiratory infections. Studies with the coronavirus have shown that getting fresh air and using fans decreases the chances of getting infected.
Vaccines provide protective immunity for individuals as well as the general public. Get your COVID shots today and the Flu when in season. Your immune system will be strong and more likely to protect you from COVID-19 and the flu season coming up.
Being nice to your liver
Your liver filters out toxins from your body. If it is overworked, it will not be able to flush out toxins as easily as a healthy liver would. Both cleansing the liver by drinking lemon water each morning is a good idea, as well as limiting foods and activities, including consuming alcohol and smoking, that stress out the liver.
Reduce your stress load
Constantly feeling the strain of stress can drain your immune system. Make self-care a priority is a must. The following are a few options you might try:
- Exercise routine
- Planning a fun activity with good friends
This will make a difference in your overall risk of sickness and also in how well you can bounce back if you do get sick.
I would like to wish both teachers and students returning to school today an uneventful school year 21-22!
Gracia Pierre-Pierre, MD CAQSM