Parents are all too aware that germs and children are a seemingly inseparable duo, especially for children who go to daycare or school. But, if your child gets the third or fourth cold or ear infection of the school year and it’s only November, it may leave you wondering if you’re doing anything wrong.
It may seem surprising, but it’s actually not unusual for children to get eight or more colds a year. In this blog, the providers at Generations Family Practice in Cary, North Carolina, explain how immunity works and the important role you play in instilling healthy habits for your child.
Your child’s developing immune system
Simply put, an immune system is a coordinated system of organs, tissues, and cells that fight against foreign bodies, such viruses, bacteria, or parasites.
There are two key parts of the immune system. One part — which is known as the innate immune system — you’re born with, and the second part — which is called the adaptive immune system — you acquire.
The way the second one works is as follows: When a disease-causing germ invades your body, cells called antibodies are created to fight off the specific invaders. The antibodies then become part of your immune system. If the same germ tries to invade your body in the future, the antibodies are ready to battle back.
While the immune system is an amazing thing, the rub is that a child’s immune system takes years to fully develop. Although experts don’t agree on the exact age, many say it doesn’t begin to fully mature until a child reaches age 7 or 8.
Boosting your child’s immune system
While you can’t prevent your child from getting sick, there are a variety of ways you can boost your child’s immune system, and, at the same time, teach them how to live healthier lives.
Not surprising, fueling your child’s body with healthy food is a great habit to get started in childhood. Although it’s easier and quicker to turn to fast food and processed food, with a little planning, eating right can be a rewarding routine for the whole family. Build meals around lean proteins, whole grains, and lots of fruits and vegetables.
Did you know that bright colored vegetables and fruits, such as oranges, green beans, carrots, and strawberries, are packed with immunity-boosting infection-fighters called phytonutrients?
Keep them active
Try to make sure your child gets at least an hour of physical activity daily. Unfortunately, less than 25% of children ages 6-17 get at least an hour of physical exercise daily. Not getting enough exercise can increase a person’s chances of developing a serious medical issue, such as becoming overweight or obese or developing diabetes.
Keep in mind that the activity doesn’t have to be anything formal like going to the gym. Just find something they enjoy doing, such as playing with friends on a playground or riding their bike. If they’re already on a sports team, you don’t have to load them up with extra activities. The point is just to get them active on a regular basis.
Get a good night’s sleep
Just like adults, kids need proper rest to restore and recharge. While the amount of sleep a child needs can change over the years, the fact remains that sleep helps reset the body and also helps the immune system. During sleep, adults and children produce proteins called cytokines, which are needed to fight infections.
Not getting enough sleep can inhibit the production of cytokines and reduce the number of antibodies. Set a good example and step away from your electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime, and make it a house rule for your children as well.
Partner with your child’s pediatric care specialist
Another great way to help your child stay strong and healthy is to partner with your pediatric care specialist. Building a healthy immune system has more to do with what your child does when they’re not sick than when they’re ill.
Scheduling regular wellness appointments with Generations Family Practice can help your child’s provider monitor their growth and development and make sure they have all of their recommended immunizations. These appointments also give you as the parent an opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about your child’s health.
To schedule a wellness visit for your child or discuss any other health concerns you may have, book an appointment online or over the phone with Generations Family Practice today.