Keep Your Children Healthy this Winter With a Strong Immune System.

The winter  months well upon us now it can seem like a real challenge to keep our children from suffering seemingly endless infections.

It is tempting to feel that “there is nothing that can really be done to stop them getting sick, especially if they are in day care or at school”. Or that it “just depends if they come in contact with someone who is sick right”?

Certainly frequent over exposure to winter viruses and germs can overpower  any our  immune systems, this is only a small part of the picture.  Our immune systems are designed to fight infections, so whether or not we succumb to an illness, is more about the strength of our immune system than just  our exposure to germs.

Some exposure to viruses and bacteria is in fact a vital part of building strong immune systems in us all. Regular frequent exposure to “bugs” is a really important part of building a strong immune system. We are doing our children and ourselves a severe dis-service by trying to eliminate all germs from our house, but that it a topic for another post.

In a recent research report that I read, a long term study showed that though healthy toddlers in day care might develop 3-5 “colds” a winter, by their middle school years these children generally suffered less illness than children who spent most of their early childhood at home. So some exposure helps to strenghten our immune systems as we grow.

So how do we develop strong robust immune systems within our little ones, to protect them, and our families from sickness?

Fortunately there are several simple steps that parents can take

  1. Thorough frequent hand-washing in ordinary soap and warm water and thorough drying of hands is a vital step in reducing the spread of infection. The use of hand wipes and antibacterial lotions doe not kill viruses and is not helpful in reducing the spread of colds and flu etc.
  2. Sufficient sleep is an often overlooked  as very important component of building a healthy immune system. Resting at the onset of first signs of getting sick also really helps. When we sleep  our body has time to repair all our systems.
  3. Provide good nutrition daily, including 2-3 fruits and a wide variety of different coloured vegetables (at least 3 serves daily).
  4. Dehydration helps germs spread in our  body so drink  at least 6-8 glasses of  good old plain water ( preferably filtered)  to remain well hydrated.
  5. As much as 30% of our immune system comes from healthy bacteria in the bowel.  A good probiotic can help here.
  6. The high sugar content of soft drinks and junk food robs the body of vitamins and minerals that are essential to healthy immune systems, so these items should be an occasional treat only.
  7. VitD3 has been hotly researched recently and is seemingly vital in every system in the body. It is very important in keeping the immune system healthy and needs to be obtained regularly. Recent research has shown that over 70% of the Australian population is now at risk of being VitaminD3 deficient.
  8. Several recent double-blind randomised research trials have shown that supplementing with small amounts of Zinc accelerated recovery in upper respiratory tract  infections. Zinc is often deficient in fussy eaters, particularly those who like sweet white foosd only, and  in rapidly growing children and adolescents.
  9. VitC found in dark green vegetables, berries and citrus fruit is also important. In the winter I suggest supplementation with a minimum of 500mg daily in a divided dose.

Ensuring sound vitamin D status, while dosing up on zinc, vitamin C, is an excellent strategy for strengthening children’s immunity against common winter bugs.

This is however where it can all get a bit  tricky for the average parent.  While dietary intake is an option for obtaining vitamin D, few foods contain adequate reliable  levels to  to be considered a reliable source. Vit D3 found in cod-liver oil ( that is why our  grandmothers used to dish it out in winter, somehow they knew that it helped fight infections) salmon, mackerel, butter.  There are also many Vitamin D3  supplements out there but most of them are not in the most viable form of Vitamin D3.

Zinc and VitD3 while  being vital nutrients also need to be given in the correct dose as too much in the body has health risks also.

So seek the advice of your healthcare practitioner before administering high doses of Zinc or Vitamin D3 to your children.

Naturally I would be delighted to help you indentify what the exact needs of your children are so that they can be healthy  this winter.