Summer is definitely over and with the cold weather come those nasty winter bugs. Your little one’s immune system is still maturing and may be more susceptible to viruses and bacteria which explains why children tend to get runny noses more often than grown-ups!!
It is next to impossible to protect children from all those bugs going around at nursery. But believe it or not, that is actually a good thing as their immune system needs to be exposed to pathogens to mature, so it can fight them more efficiently later in life.
So, what can we do to support their maturing immune system? Quite a lot nutritionally speaking!
First of all, bring on the vitamins!
White blood cells need plenty of vitamin C to stay healthy and fight off infections. Here are a couple of hacks to ensure your little one gets all the vitamin C he or she needs:
Vitamin A has anti-viral properties and supports mucous membranes (yes, that create a physical barrier between our body and pathogens.
Another immune system booster is vitamin E which helps keep our infection-fighting white blood cells membranes in good shape. But that’s not all, vitamin E can help protect the skin in the winter months when dry skin and eczema resurface.
Vitamin D is produced by the skin when we expose it to the sun. In the UK, we don’t get much sunlight in the winter and given that kid’s skin needs plenty of sun protection in the summer, vitamin D reserves might be running low.
Vitamin D plays a very important role in the maintenance of the immune system and deficiency has been identified as a risk factor in viral infections such as the flu.
The current NHS recommendation is for babies under 1 year of age to take 8.5-10mcg of vitamin D a day unless they are drinking more than 500ml of formula/day. For children aged 1 and adults the recommendation is 10mcg (400IU)/day. Which on the low side even if your vitamin D levels are good!!
My advice is to check your vitamin D levels – you can easy do a finger prick test– and supplement accordingly following your GP or nutritionist advice.
And of course, minerals!
Minerals play a very important role in supporting the immune system. Zinc from seafood, red meat, nuts and seeds, is essential for the production of antibodies that help fight infection. Another less known mineral, selenium, plays an important role in the activity of the cells of the immune system. Adding brazil nuts (well ground) to bakes, salmon to fish cakes and having red meat once or twice a week can boost their selenium reserves.
And a couple more things for strong immunity
Protein from beans, pulses, eggs, dairy, fish and meat helps support the immune system so ensure your little one’s meals always have a portion of it. Just a palm size portion of chicken or handful of well-cooked lentils (their size, not yours) is plenty to keep their immune system ticking along nicely.
Curcumin, the deep yellow component of turmeric, has immune-modulating properties which can help regulate the immune system for babies those suffering from allergies or asthma.
And of course…limit sweets intake because sugar temporarily depresses the immune system for up to 5 hours, lowering its ability to fight off infections.