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Five ways to build immunity in kids

Five ways to build immunity in kids

Kids falling sick often is a cause of worry for many parents. But exposure to infections often is the road to immunity

A healthy lifestyle, moderate outdoor playtime, hygiene, sleep, and a healthy diet are the keys to boost immunity and resist infections in children, say experts.  Recurrent viral and bacterial infections that kids suffer from often have been a concern for parents. Developing resistance against repeated infections is possible by boosting immunity, say doctors.

Usually, when the weather changes, there will be a change in humidity and temperature. This paves way for the growth of not only viruses and bacteria but also fungi and protozoa, says Dr Pushkala, consultant paediatrician, Kauvery Hospital, Chennai.

Is low immunity why children fall sick often?

Fluctuation in weather affects children more than adults. “The immunity of children and adolescents is different from that of the adults. The adult immune system is generally an experienced one because they would have been exposed to a lot of infections since childhood. So, the chances of adults getting infected during monsoon are low as compared to children,” says Dr Pushkala.

According to Dr Suchitra, obstetrician and gynaecologist, Apollo Cradle and Children’s Hospital, Bengaluru, children produce antibodies every time they are exposed to a microbe, but it takes time for this immunity to fully develop. “The passive immunity passed on from the mother at birth also doesn’t last long and will start to decrease in the first few weeks and months after birth. Hence vaccination and a healthy diet are important in maintaining and producing an adequate immune response to any infection,” she says.

Children falling sick often is a cause of worry for many parents. But exposure to infections often is the road to boosting immunity in children.
photo by anantha subramanyam

These are the five ways to build immunity in children according to experts:

1. Naturally boost immunity in children

Dr Pushkala says that natural immunity can be obtained only by exposure to multiple infections. “As a child gets exposed to more organisms in the environment, her/his immune system fights them and becomes stronger. So, if your child is getting frequently ill, do not worry, as it is probably how your child is going to develop her/his immunity,” she says.

Dr Mamatha, paediatrician, Apollo Cradle and Children’s Hospital, Bengaluru, says that humid weather is a good environment for microbes to grow and thrive and hence it is very important to build immunity during times of weather change. She suggests the following:

  • Eat healthy food.
  • Consume nutrient-rich food, which is rich in vitamin C, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, fruits like oranges, green leafy vegetables, eggs, fish, dairy products, walnuts and flaxseeds.
  • Do regular exercise and yoga.

Dr Pushkala highlights the importance of consuming ‘rainbow’ fruits. “Fruits and vegetables of every colour of the rainbow should be encouraged as part of the diet. They should have a balanced diet, rich in protein, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates as well as fat,” she says.

2. Sleep is a must

Dr Pushkala underscores the significance of sleep and says that most children do not get adequate sleep. “We see children who remain awake till midnight or 1 am, and then they have difficulty getting up. Sleep has an important role to play when it comes to immunity in children. On average, teenagers need to have eight to ten hours of sleep and younger children need 12 to 14 hours,” she says.

3. Promote hand washing

Experts say that effective hand washing is also essential. Especially when the children come back home after playing or school, encourage them to have a bath. They must wash their hands with water and soap before and after eating. Washing hands with warm water for at least 20 seconds will remove bacteria and viruses. This can reduce lung infections.


4. Exercise and stress relief

Doctors say that after the pandemic, because of a sedentary lifestyle, a lot of children have gained weight and also developed stress and mental health issues.

“Many children are glued to the screens and prefer to remain at home throughout the day. As a result of that, they are not only obese but also stressed. Physical exercise helps in growth and development. It also helps them maintain adequate posture and improve cognition,” says Dr Pushkala.

Exercise is a very important aspect of building immunity. “For children of all age groups, it is mandatory that they have some form of physical exercise. Forty-five minutes of outdoor activity every day is what most doctors advise,” says Dr Pushkala.

She suggests two forms of exercise:

Aerobics – To help build stamina. It can be in the form of cycling or swimming.

Strength training – To build the strength of muscles and bones. Push-ups and squats are two such examples.

5. Artificial immunity

Artificial immunity through vaccinations can also be built in children who are prone to infections, preferably in the age group of one to five years, says Dr Pushkala. “That (age group) is when we advise most of the vaccinations to be given to children. We suggest parents do not skip the essential vaccines for their children.”

Children who are immune compromised are susceptible to multiple infections, especially viral infections and opportunistic fungal infections, says Dr Suchitra. “Most viral infections can be accompanied by secondary bacterial infections. Hence, it is prudent to be aware of the state of immunity of the children to protect them from such scenarios,” she says.

Water-borne infections and immunity in children

The rainy season is notorious for infections through multiple modes of spread. Vector-borne diseases like malaria, dengue and chikungunya are spread by mosquitoes carrying the pathogen. Mosquitoes can breed due to water retention in some endemic areas.

Dr Suchitra says that water-borne diseases are likely due to water contamination, leading to infections such as acute gastroenteritis, typhoid and cholera due to viruses or bacteria. “Most commonly, a change in the climatic conditions can most often precipitate in air-borne viral infections causing flu-like symptoms more often in the younger and older age groups,” she says.

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