Kids may seem like germ magnets, but there are a number of ways parents can help give their child's immunity a boost.
"Immunity develops over time, so the more someone gets exposed, the more the immune system develops," says Dr. Palak Shroff, a family medicine specialist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. "Kids' whole environment is new, but over time, their immunity will develop and get better," she adds.
To help your kids minimize their risk of catching every bug that goes around the classroom, Dr. Shroff offers the following tips:
1. Breast-feed if you can. "During breast-feeding, the mother's immunity transfers to the child," Dr. Shroff says. This is an important way to help your child build strong immunity.
2. Offer kids a healthy diet. Plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will contain the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are essential for peak immune function. Add targeted immune-boosting supplements for extra support. Start with a high-quality daily multivitamin and add children's probiotic formula. Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, help prevent harmful bacteria and viruses from invading the body. Studies show a strong link between a healthy GI tract and strong immunity, and many experts recommend that kids take probiotics. While probiotics are also found in nutritious foods like yogurt, children would have to eat a large quantity to obtain significant immune-boosting benefits, which makes a supplement ideal.
3. Make sure kids are getting enough sleep. If children aren't well-rested, their bodies lose their natural defense mechanisms and have a tougher time fighting off illness, Dr. Shroff says.
4. Get plenty of exercise.Physical activity promotes better blood circulation, which helps the lungs and heart work better. This helps support immunity.
5. Teach children good hygiene. Washing their with soap and water and covering their coughs and sneezes are simple habits that even young kids should be encouraged to develop.
6. Protect children from cigarette smoke. Secondhand smoke -- like any allergen -- can harm a child's immunity. Kids who are regularly exposed to cigarette smoke tend to develop respiratory infections more often than kids who aren't.
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