School-Year Sniffles: 5 Ways to Strengthen Kids’ Immune Systems
Kids need a great support system while they are keeping their minds sharp in school. That support comes from their families, their teachers – and from their immune systems!
Your immune system is a network of cells, proteins and organs that fight infection to keep you well. With kids back in class and flu season just around the corner, now is an especially important time for your child’s immune system to be strong.
Stress, lack of sleep and vitamin deficiency are just a few aspects of your health that can negatively impact your immune system. While there isn’t a single solution to boosting immunity, there are many healthy choices we can make to strengthen our immune systems long-term. Here are five ways to help strengthen kids’ immune systems this school year.
Liven Up Their Lunchbox
A balanced diet with a full range of vitamins and minerals helps fuel a strong immune system. Reach for colorful fruits and vegetables when packing lunchboxes or making after-school snacks, and make sure your child meets the recommended daily amounts for these nutrients:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- B Vitamins
Practice Handwashing and Hygiene
Lend your child’s immune system a hand and stop germs from spreading in the first place! Teach your kids to wash their hands often, using clean water and soap to thoroughly scrub for at least 20 seconds. It’s also important to regularly wash items that might carry germs, such as clothes and toys.
Practice Stress Relief Techniques
School can be stressful. When we are stressed, our immune system produces fewer germ-fighting white blood cells than normal, which puts us at higher risk for being sick. You can help your child cope with stress by teaching them to take slow, deep breaths to calm down or exercising with them to help release anxious feelings.
Our immune systems produce many of our white blood cells while we sleep, so without enough rest, kids may be more likely to get sick. Make sure your child has a regular bedtime during the school year that allows for a full night’s rest. According to the National Sleep Foundation:
- Children ages 3-5 need 10-13 hours of sleep.
- Children ages 6-13 need 9-11 hours of sleep.
- Teenagers ages 14-17 need 8-10 hours of sleep.
Keep Up to Date With Immunizations
Immunizations strengthen your child’s immune system by helping it create the right antibodies to prevent serious illnesses. Some vaccines are required for school, and others are recommended for your child’s health – like the flu vaccine. The flu is easily spread in schools by coughing, sneezing and touching shared surfaces, but a vaccination can help protect them from getting sick.
About the Author
Angela Bacigalupo, MD, MPH practices family medicine at Burlington Family Practice.