If sick kids seem to be a fact of life at your home it won’t surprise you to know that many pediatricians consider six to eight colds, bouts of flu, or ear infections per year normal. But you say enough is enough – it’s time for a new normal for your family!
Our immune system enables the body to defend itself from germs on a daily basis. It consists of organs, tissues, cells and proteins that create an army of internal warriors whose job is to attack any invading germs and prevent them from causing disease.
There are many ways to help boost and support the body’s natural disease-fighting defense system and promote overall health. Here are 7 ways to boost your child’s health and help reduce the number of sick days in your house:
1. Wash your hands. Medical reports state that about 80% of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch. Get everyone into the habit of not touching his or her face with dirty hands. Kids’ immune systems need some exposure to bacteria and viruses to practice fighting them off (that’s how they develop antibodies). But help fight germs and reduce stress on your child’s immune system by getting them into the habit of washing their hands often — and with soap.
2. Get enough sleep. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as the common cold. Sleep deprivation may decrease the immune system’s production of certain cytokines, the protein that needs to increase when the body has an infection. The optimal amount of sleep for most adults is 7-8 hours, teenagers need 9-10 hours, school-aged children may need 10 or more hours, toddlers can use up to 13 hours, and the under-six-months set needs as much as 20 hours of sleep a day.
3. Get a move on it. Exercise can bolster both antibody and T-killer cell response that helps protect and enhance the immune system. The fact that regular exercise has been shown to combat depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness may also influence immune health. Get your family’s routine started by walking briskly around the neighborhood for 20-30 minutes a day five days a week – then you can figure out which activity to join.
4. Eliminate secondhand smoke. Cigarette smoke has around 4,000 different chemicals that can weaken the immune system of anyone who inhales it. The country’s leading scientists and public health experts tell us that children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more prone to ear infections, coughs, colds, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems. Give them the benefit they deserve, do not smoke or allow others to smoke around your child.
5. Eat your fruit and veggies. Oranges, strawberries, carrots, and green beans are a few of the varieties that contain such phytonutrients as vitamin C and carotenoids, which research shows can increase the body’s production of infection-fighting white blood cells and interferon, an antibody that coats cell surfaces that block out viruses. The amount of fruits and vegetables children need to eat depends on age, sex, and level of physical activity. Recommended daily amounts are shown on the USDA’s website, ChooseMyPlate.gov.
6. Add Pro-bi-o-tics. Research has shown that when ‘good bacteria’, like Lactobacillus, are allowed to multiply they help boost the immune system. Seventy percent of the body’s entire immune system is in the digestive tract and probiotics can help foster the proper balance between good bacteria and the non-beneficial bacteria that resides in the gastrointestinal tract. A few ways to include probiotics to your family’s daily diet is by having yogurt with “live and active cultures,” soy milk, or more effectively through quality supplements which contain 8 to 10 billion good bacteria cells.
7. Drink enough water. Bodies need water to produce lymph. Without lymph, white blood cells and other immune cells would not be able to travel throughout the body to fight disease. Water energized the body, helps carry oxygen through your bloodstream, regulates your body temperature, and helps you metabolize fat as energy. Many reports state that 80% of your brain is made up of water, so hydrating your body will also keep your brain active and alert. There isn’t one definitive answer as to the amount of water that children need to consume so formulate the amount your child needs, make sure they replenish lost water throughout the day, and check the color of their urine (clear is good, yellow suggests more water is needed).
Every step you take toward improving your family’s immune system will help stave off illnesses or at least shorten their duration – creating the new normal at your house.