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Preventive Care
Children's Health

How to Build Immunity in Children?

20 December 2023 · 5 mins read


From eating a balanced diet to managing stress and exercising daily, find out how to strengthen your child’s immune system.

Parents frequently ponder: How can we ensure the well-being of our children and enhance their immune system to protect against COVID-19, colds, flu, and various illnesses?

Indeed, there are effective measures, but there are no miraculous solutions or wonder supplements. The key to maintaining a healthy immune system lies in the fundamental steps taken to sustain overall health. Despite the seemingly mundane nature of these practices, their effectiveness is well-established and reliable.

What Is Immunity?

In simple terms, immunity is the body's ability to fight against disease-causing germs. The human body comes in contact with several pathogens every day.

However, only a few cause diseases. The reason is that every time our body comes in contact with a virus or bacteria, antibodies are released, which protect the body against infections. This defence mechanism is called immunity.

Why Is it Important to Build Immunity in Children?

We live in a world where the population of new microbes and their variants is growing daily. Look at the number of Coronavirus variants we have heard of in the last 3 years! Additionally, the ever-increasing pollution levels are a considerable concern for human health and, more so, for children.

Building immunity in children is crucial for several reasons:

  • Disease prevention: A strong immune system helps protect children from various infections, viruses, and bacteria that can cause illnesses. This is especially important in environments such as schools, where children are in close contact and can easily transmit infections.
  • Faster recovery: In case a child does get sick, a robust immune system allows for quicker recovery. A well-functioning immune system can identify and combat pathogens more efficiently, reducing the severity and duration of illnesses.
  • Long-term health: Developing a strong immune system during childhood sets the foundation for better long-term health. Children with a healthy immune system are less likely to develop chronic illnesses later in life.
  • Overall well-being: Good immunity is a key component of overall well-being. It ensures that the body's defence mechanisms function optimally, contributing to better energy levels, mood, and overall quality of life.

How to Build Immunity in Children?

Here are some excellent tips for building immunity in your little ones:

  1. Eating a balanced diet

    A balanced diet contains the proper amount of nutrients the body needs to remain healthy, grow and be disease-free.

    A "healthy" diet for children entails a balanced and nutritious eating pattern that includes ample servings of fruits and vegetables. It is recommended that children aim for at least five servings a day, with these colourful, nutrient-rich foods comprising half of every meal plate.

    Additionally, a well-rounded and health-conscious diet for children should incorporate whole grains, lean protein sources, and include a sufficient intake of dairy or alternative sources of calcium. Healthy fats, such as those found in vegetable oils, are also considered beneficial for overall well-being.

    • Eggs: They contain essential vitamins like A, B12 and nutrients like selenium and zinc. Eggs also have a good amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, proteins, and antioxidants.
    • Fish and meat: These are excellent sources of zinc, iron, and Vitamin B. Fatty fish such as salmon also contains large amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, which help boost immunity.
    • Cruciferous vegetables: Vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage help to boost your child's immunity. They have essential vitamins such as C, E & K and minerals. They are also a good source of fibre.
    • Citrus fruits: Fruits such as oranges and grapefruit are highly beneficial in boosting immunity due to the abundant presence of Vitamin C and minerals.
    • Yoghurt: Contains probiotics that help to improve gut health, digestion, and overall well-being. Additionally, it has essential nutrients such as calcium and potassium.
    • Seeds: Seeds such as sesame, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc., are loaded with plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, healthy fats, and micronutrients, which help to boost the immune function.
    • Berries: Cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are packed with powerful nutrients and antioxidants. They help to strengthen your child's immune system by fighting oxidative stress.

    Conversely, it is important to be mindful of certain food choices that may hinder a child's health. Processed foods, items containing added sugars, and unhealthy fats—specifically saturated fats commonly found in animal products—are best consumed in moderation. While occasional treats like cookies or ice cream are not off the table, emphasising a balanced approach is key.

  2. Proper sleep

    • An interesting fact is that sleep deprivation can reduce the innate ability of the immune system to shield against harmful microbes.
    • The required amount of sleep for children varies based on their age, ranging from 12 to 16 hours a day for infants to 8 to 10 hours for teenagers. It may differ from child to child as some need more sleep than others.
  3. Exercise

    • Regular exercise is key to maintaining good health and reducing the likelihood of illness.
    • It is recommended that children engage in at least one hour of physical activity each day. The term "active" does not exclusively refer to participating in organised sports or gym workouts; it can encompass activities like playing at the playground, swimming, or walking.
  4. Stress management

    • We live in a time when children are subjected to immense competition and pressure. Chronic stress in children can suppress the immune system, making it less effective at fighting infections and diseases.
    • It is essential to ensure that children have dedicated downtime for play and access to activities and people that bring them joy.
    • Spending quality time together as a family is crucial, providing opportunities for open communication where children feel comfortable discussing any concerns or worries.
    • If there are any concerns about a child's emotional health, it is advisable to consult a doctor.
  5. Hygiene

    • Poor sanitary conditions in one's surroundings increase the risk of infections, meaning the immune system needs to fight harder every day.
    • Maintain an excellent hygienic environment in your home to minimise the chance of contracting infections.
  6. Vaccinations

    • Vaccinations play a crucial role in safeguarding against a variety of illnesses.
    • Regular check-ins with your doctor ensure that your child receives the recommended vaccines, providing essential protection against preventable diseases.

Make an Appointment at Pantai Hospitals

Remember, small changes can significantly improve your child's overall well-being.

A dedicated and expert team of paediatricians at Pantai Hospital is available for consultation to provide the best care and assistance. Get in touch with us to book an appointment today if you have any concerns or questions regarding your child’s growth and development.

Pantai Hospitals have been accredited by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) for its commitment to patient safety and service quality.

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