Parents want to do whatever they can to keep their kids healthy. But even a very healthy child will get sick occasionally, and that is not a sign that their immune system is weak. In fact, a healthy immune system should respond to the germs and infections that all kids are bound to come in contact with. The key indicator that a child’s immune system is working is how their body recovers the illness. 

A healthy immune system isn’t one that it is over-sensitive to perceived threats, either. When the immune system perceives non-threatening elements as dangers, it can make the body unnecessarily ill, as with allergies and autoimmune diseases. There needs to be a balance.

Everyday Prevention: The Combination Approach

The best thing a parent can do to support a child’s immune system comes before the child even gets sick. They can support a healthy immune system by ensuring the child gets enough sleep and exercise, receives vaccinations, and eats a healthy, balanced diet with all the vitamins and minerals a growing and developing body needs.

There are some vitamins and minerals that are more involved in supporting a healthy immune system than others. Rather than giving them one over another, the best approach is to ensure they are getting an adequate supply of them all.

Vitamin A is a big player and is involved in maintaining a healthy immune system and fighting against infections. Vitamin E is also vital for immune system health and healing.

In addition to these micronutrients, vitamin C and D are essential to your child’s overall health, and can therefore help support a more robust immune system. Vitamin C can help your child’s body better fight infections and vitamin D has been shown to help prevent infections in children and adults.

Zinc is an also an important mineral in boosting the immune system. Some studies have even shown that taking it while sick can shorten the life of an infection. Just like vitamin C, the key is to be sure that your child is getting enough in their diet to support a healthy immune system before they get sick.

Another powerful supplement? Elderberry. Studies suggest that this medicinal plant can significantly reduce the duration and severity of the common cold symptoms.

When They Get Sick 

Because children are bound to get sick eventually, there are some key things you can do to help their little bodies recover. 

1. Keep eating a healthy diet, full of food that will deliver all those vitamins and minerals your body needs.

2. Wash hands thoroughly and frequently. If you can’t get to a sink to wash, use wipes or an alcohol-based disinfectant. To wash well, use soap and scrub your hands together for 40-60 seconds. One report found that good hand hygiene was one of the best ways to prevent a cold from starting in the first place, and it will certainly help prevent the spread of illnesses to others.

3. If a child is very uncomfortable from their illness, manage their pain with medicines containing paracetamol. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label for a safe dose for both a single dose and a maximum daily limit.

4. Stress can be a major factor in how well kids bodies respond to illness.  Children should rest to allow their bodies to focus on fighting off the infection.

One thing to note is that children under six should never be given over-the-counter cough and cold medicine, and children between six and eleven should only be given it on the recommendation of a pharmacists, nurse practitioner, or doctor.

While it would be nice if our kids never got sick, a healthy immune system develops over time with every exposure to different germs. Kids will eventually catch a germ that their body does not recognise and it will make them ill. Their immune system will response to fight the infection.

Parents can help shorten the life of the infection by ensuring that their children’s immune systems are already strengthened by sleep, exercise, vaccinations, and a healthy balanced diet. If you are concerned that your child may not be getting enough, talk to your healthcare professional about supplementing with vitamins and minerals that help support a healthy immune system to fight illness. If your child has a high fever or other serious illness, seek professional medical attention immediately.

Vitamin and mineral supplements do not replace a balanced healthy diet. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.