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Strong & Healthy: Boost Your Child’s Immunity

In normal everyday living conditions, an average child is exposed to an array of germs and viruses which may make him sick. Unfortunately though, getting sick as a child is nothing more than one of life’s ‘job description’!

By successfully battling an ongoing series of germs, viruses, and other organisms, children prime their immunity from strength to strength. In fact, pediatricians consider anywhere from six to eight bouts of colds, flu, or ear infections per year normal. However here are some power boosting habits that will help give a child’s immune system a boost.

Ensure Sufficient Sleep

Studies of adults show that sleep deprivation is detrimental to a human’s immune defense system. Lack of sleep leads to tired bodies which in turn reduces the body’s natural killer cells, immune-system weapons that attack microbes and cancer cells. While a newborn may need up to eighteen hours of crib-time a day, toddlers require twelve to thirteen hours, where else preschoolers should be happily snoozing for about 10 hours. If your child can’t or won’t take naps during the day, perhaps an earlier bed time should be scheduled.

Color Their Diets

Carrots, green beans, oranges and berries – think different colored fruits and vegetables! They all contain such immunity-boosting phytonutrients as vitamin C and carotenoids.

Phytonutrients may increase the body’s production of infection-fighting white blood cells and interferon, a virus-blocking antibody. Studies show that a diet rich in phytonutrients from childhood can also protect against such chronic diseases as cancer and heart disease later during adulthood. Try to get your child to eat five servings of fruits and veggies a day. (A serving is about two tablespoons for toddlers, 1¼ cup for older kids.)

Nurse Your Baby

Breast milk contains irreplaceable immunity-enhancing antibodies and white blood cells. Nursing a baby is akin to guarding that baby against a host of ailments including ear infections, allergies, diarrhea, pneumonia, meningitis, urinary-tract infections, and even sudden infant death syndrome. Studies have also concluded that breast-feeding may also enhance your baby’s brain power and help protect against insulin-dependent diabetes, Crohn’s disease, colitis, and certain forms of cancer later in life. Colostrum, the yellowish “first-milk” that flows from the breasts during the first few days after birth, is especially rich in disease-fighting antibodies. Aim to breast-feed for at least three month to reap the full potential of breastfeeding.

Get Them to Exercise

Research has concluded that exercise increases the number of natural killer cells in adults — and this amazing benefit is exactly the same for children. Of course when it comes to imitating their parents, children see, children do, so be a good role model for the sake of your whole family’s health and well being. Move along with them and not just nag them to be active. Activities families can enjoy together include walking, bike riding, skating, badminton, bowling etc…

Guard Against Germs

Although not directly related to boosting immunity, halting the spread of germs is akin to giving your child’s immune system a break. Teach kids to wash their hands often — with soap! You should pay particular attention to their hygiene before and after each meal, after an outing or playing outside; after handling pets, blowing their nose, using the bathroom and also when they arrive home from day care or pre-school. Always carry a hand sanitizer or disposable wipes with you for quick cleanups anytime. To nudge kids into cultivating the hand-washing habit at home, let them pick out their own soap in fun shapes, colors, and scents and even their own brightly-colored hand towels!

Germ Busting Tip: Throw away a sick child’s toothbrush! – A child won’t catch the same cold or flu virus twice, but the virus can transfer from toothbrush to toothbrush in the bathroom cabinet or shelf, infecting other family members. Plus, if it’s a bacterial infection, such as strep throat, however, your child can be re-infected with the same infectious germs and hamper any chances of a fast recovery.

Say No to Secondhand Smoke

Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 toxins, most of which can irritate or kill cells in the body… hence, if you or your spouse smoke, quit! Kids breathe at a faster rate and a child’s natural detoxification system is far less developed rendering them more susceptible than adults to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke has been proven to increase the risk of SIDS, bronchitis, ear infections, and asthma in children. It may also affect intelligence and neurological development. If you absolutely can’t quit smoking, you can reduce your child’s health risks considerably by smoking only outside the house.

Stop Bugging Your Pediatrician

Insisting that your pediatrician prescribe an antibiotic whenever your child has a cold, flu, or sore throat is a bad idea. Antibiotics act to treat illnesses caused by bacteria, not viruses.

Surveys and studies have revealed that many pediatricians prescribe antibiotics, albeit reluctantly, at the urging of parents who mistakenly think it can’t hurt when in fact, it can. Strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria have flourished and as a result, a simple ear infection is now more difficult to cure if it’s caused by stubborn bacteria that don’t respond to standard treatment. Whenever your child’s pediatrician does prescribe an antibiotic, make sure it’s because your child needs it and not because it’s what you want!

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