Written by Sindhuja Prabhu
Did you know babies are born with an immature immune system? That is why doctors ask us to be very careful with a newborn. The immunity develops and matures as the child gets older. The right environmental exposures and foods along with genetics help form a good immune system. This is why some children have a strong immune system and some don’t.
Is your child prone to multiple infections a year? If you are nodding a yes, then you must have tried numerous ways to boost their immunity. One quick way parents resort to is immune boosters they can readily get off shelves in stores and pharmacies. But can they really help your child recover from a bad viral fever or other recurring infections? Come, let’s find out.
In This Article
Immune boosters are anything that can help improve your immunity. Our immune systems help us fight various viruses, bacteria, pathogens, and other infection-causing germs in our environment.
Immune boosters can be natural like fruits, vegetables, and grains or man-made like supplements. Some of these supplements can be made from natural ingredients that occur freely in the environment. Some are made in labs where the required minerals and vitamins are extracted from various plants and animals using scientific methods and techniques.
Man-made immune boosters are fortified with specific vitamins and minerals that can help improve our immunity to various infections, viruses, bacteria, and pathogens. They help the body get stronger by boosting the immunity from within, to fight these infections.
It is easier for the body to absorb essential nutrients from such supplements rather than from natural food items. The body has to break down the food and absorb the essential or available nutrients.
So, immune boosters help by increasing the number of selected nutrients in the body, unlike food sources where you cannot get just one nutrient.
Fever is the body’s natural reaction to a foreign invasion. When foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria enter the body, the immune system starts working to fight these invaders. Fever is one of the outcomes of this fight happening inside the body.
[Read : Viral Fever In Children]
Viral fevers are treated using various oral medicines that provide relief for the symptoms. Antibiotics have no role in the treatment of viral fevers and may, in fact, be harmful. In case of viral fever, your doctor will check the body temperature, analyze other symptoms, and prescribe medicines and treatments accordingly. They will also suggest rest and diet changes to help the body recover faster.
A sick baby needs the essential nutrients to help them recover. A baby’s diet may have restrictions due to their age. Their bodies are not developed enough to absorb everything they eat. Also, a sick baby may refuse to eat much.
In such cases, immune boosters fortified with essential vitamins and minerals can help increase their content in a child’s body. This can help improve their immune system quickly to fight the infection.
Doctors might recommend such immune boosters when they feel a child has a deficiency or is not getting enough of certain nutrients from food sources. Though such immune boosters can boost your child’s immune system, they can never be a permanent solution.
One should also remember that just like there is a minimum limit, there is a maximum limit for the essential nutrients one can consume in a day. If you give too many immune boosters along with immune-boosting foods, you might overload them with vitamins and minerals.
Large doses of various nutrients like Vitamin C, selenium, zinc, or Vitamin B6 can cause a stomach upset or other issues. Over-consumption of copper can even cause nerve damage. Consuming too many immune boosters can affect your child’s health rather than help them.
If your child is prone to infections or takes a lot of time to recover from one, you may want to improve their immunity. Here are a few ways in which you can help build your child’s immunity:
Teach your child good hygiene habits from the start. Ensure they follow it wherever they go because no place is free of germs.
Teach them to
Staying physically active is very important for a good immune system. Exercising need not be boring. Your child can play a sport or two, play with their friends, or even just run or cycle around.
If your child does not exercise or have company to play around with, you can try enrolling them in different outdoor sports classes. Children tend to cooperate and do more when they are in a group with other children with someone apart from the parent giving the instructions.
Ensure your child follows a good routine. Going to bed, waking up, eating their meals, and doing their other chores and responsibilities, in a set pattern can do your child a lot of good. It can help their bodies get into a rhythm and function better.
Your child needs to go to bed early and get good sleep as per their age recommendation. When the body gets sufficient rest, nutritious food on time, and is made to work physically, they get stronger from within.
What your child eats is very important. Ensure your child follows a well-balanced diet. During the first few months of life, breastmilk offers the right kind of nutrition and hence exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months of life. As children grow older, they get exposed to harmful junk foods, especially school-going children. You must find ways to avoid junk food and include a daily dose of fruits, vegetables, and grains that are rich in essential nutrients.
[Read : Top 12 Most Unhealthy Foods For Kids]
Ensure your child gets all their immunization shots on time as per recommendation. Some of these are single doses while some come in multiple doses. Missing a dose can leave your child vulnerable to that particular virus or infection.
If you miss an immunization, consult your doctor at the earliest. They can guide you in the right direction as to when to give your child the shot or what else to do. Immunizations are not just for immediate protection. When given at the right time, they can protect your child forever. This is why many of these doses come with age recommendations.
Most of the so-called immune boosters sold in the market are commercial products and may not be scientifically prepared. The “Immune Booster” market has grown by several thousand folds during the pandemic, and this is clearly due to the fear created by the pandemic. Unless your doctor recommends vitamins and minerals, picking up any immune booster from the market for your child is not advisable.
A healthy and balanced diet is very important for a strong immune system. We are what we eat and unless your child eats well, their immune system cannot get stronger. A healthy diet must consist of fresh fruits, vegetables, grain, healthy fats, and lean protein. These are very important to not only boost the immune system but to also make the body stronger.
A healthy, well-balanced diet must contain foods rich in
Soluble fiber helps make the immune system stronger by getting inflammations under control. It produces essential proteins that stimulate the T-cells, which are an important component of a healthy immune system. It can be a banana, yogurt, or even cereal.
All vitamins are important for the body. While the body can synthesize and absorb various vitamins from food sources, you must pay particular attention to Vitamin B6, C, and D sources. A deficiency or insufficiency in these can affect the way your child’s immune system responds to infections.
You can add dairy products, fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, and protein-rich foods like chicken, and fish to your child’s diet.
Essential minerals help keep inflammations under control and improve the immune system’s response to infections. Minerals like zinc, copper, magnesium, and selenium can influence how the immune system responds to infections. They can even impact the genetics of viral pathogens that cause infections.
Probiotic foods like Kefir, yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, or fermented vegetables contain active cultures which are helpful bacteria. Prebiotic foods like garlic, onion, asparagus, bananas, or dandelion greens are rich in fiber and oligosaccharides, which help to feed and maintain the healthy bacteria in the body
A bad viral fever can be very hard on some children than others. It can be very difficult for a parent to just sit and do nothing about it. Though parents cannot do much, they can do the following to help their child recover and get better:
Doctors will give a course of medications for the viral fever. It is essential to complete the entire course as per prescription. Discontinuing the medicines just because the child is feeling better might result in a relapse of the infection.
Similarly, giving too much medicine, or adding more medicines to the list can endanger the child. Only doctors are fully aware of what medications can help and what combination of medications can be safe or unsafe for a child. Self-medicating can have dire consequences when your child’s immunity is already low.
Never miss a doctor’s appointment. Even if your child recovers fully and is back to normal, do not miss the follow-up appointment if any. The doctor will check the progress to ensure there is no infection left, or if your child is strong enough to be taken off medications. It might feel unnecessary, but it is important to consult your doctor as recommended.
It can be very tough for a child with a bad viral fever to run around and play actively. However, ensure your child is not stuck completely indoors in front of a screen. Let them at least go out for a walk. Getting their heart pumping and flushing their lungs with fresh air, can do them a lot of good.
As your child gets better, they might want to go out and play. If you are very concerned, you can always check with your doctor and let your child play for a limited time.
Ensure you provide your child with a healthy diet consisting of a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. You can check with your doctor on what to include or avoid if your child is very sick. Just the medicines cannot help your child get better. They need their daily dose of essential nutrients through their food too.
If your child refuses to eat, you can try different combinations or new presentations if possible. Children tend to try items that look visually appealing.
Your child needs a lot of fluids as well. Ensure they drink plenty of water and other liquids, to prevent dehydration.
Last but not least, empathize with your child. The bad viral fever has in fact affected your child, and they are feeling weak from within. They might miss going to school, playing with their friends, or doing their regular things. A child may not know how to express but they are bound to feel low emotionally. It is important to be supportive.
Never try to push your child to play harder or eat more by comparing them with other healthy kids when your child is on medications or under treatment. If they want to talk or express something, be patient and hear them out. Emotionally connecting with your child, especially when they are sick and out of their normal routine, is very important. If they are emotionally happy, they can recover better.
Viral fevers and other ailments are a part and parcel of your child’s life. It is how the immune system learns to fight infections and protect the body as your child grows. Despite all the claims by immune boosters, your child needs a healthy diet, a good routine, and sufficient exercise to stay healthy in the long run.
They cannot really help “build” your child’s immunity. They may be fortified with essential vitamins and minerals, but your child’s hygiene, food, and physical habits play a big role in sustaining a good immune system.
Parents can inculcate good food and hygiene habits in their children, ensure they are physically active, and get their immunizations on time.
Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc, Magnesium, Selenium, protein, and iron are essential to help improve your child’s immune system from within.
Sindhuja, a mother of two, is an obsessive mom with a keen interest in psychology, especially child psychology. Her quest for knowledge and way with words led her to become a passionate content writer. She transformed her love for writing into a full-fledged career which incidentally also turned up being the perfect stress buster for the last 5 years.Read more.
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