Many schools are forging ahead with in-person classrooms this fall, but for children who are too young to be vaccinated, many parents are asking, how can I best protect the health of my child? Mask wearing is our primary defense tool for young kids in school, but bolstering your child’s immune system can also help protect them from illnesses of all kinds. Here are seven ways to strengthen your child’s immune system as they head back to school.
Encourage personal hygiene
Aside from mask wearing, hand washing is the most crucial habit to protect from illness. Fortunately, kids are highly adaptable and with a little practice, it’s easy to institute strong personal hygiene habits. Teach kids how to properly wash their hands and encourage them to do so before eating and after using the restroom or visiting a busy public area. Kids learn by example, so show them that you yourself are following the same personal hygiene habits by washing your hands together.
Follow immunization schedules
Covid-19 is getting the bulk of our public health attention, but other diseases, such as measles, are also on the rise, despite having effective vaccines available since the 1960s. Consult your pediatrician and make sure your child is up to date on all their vaccines before the new school year.
Eat the rainbow
The old “eat the rainbow” strategy for adequate nutrition can be tough if you have a picky eater at home, but committing to healthy nutritious foods is critical for building a strong immune system. Zinc and B, C and A vitamins all help bolster the immune system, so incorporate a wide variety of leafy greens, fresh fruits, lean protein, and healthy grains into your diet. Remember that even the pickiest kid likely won’t notice if you sneak vegetables into smoothies. To learn more about eating for immune health, check out this article.
Focus on gut health
A growing body of evidence is linking gut health with overall wellness and disease. Focus on whole foods and fibrous foods to promote a healthy gut and ask your pediatrician about a child-safe probiotic. Check out this article to learn more about eating for a healthy gut.
Sleep is our bodies’ time to rest, heal, and process what we experience during the day. Slumber is even more important for growing children, so make sure your kids are sleeping in a dark, cool, quiet room and stop screen use an hour before bed to avoid circadian rhythm disruptions. Establishing regular sleep and wake time is also important for maintaining sleep quality. Check out this resource to determine how many hours of sleep your child should be getting.
The pandemic has ramped up stress levels for all of us, and children aren’t exempt. Small daily habits like family meals and emotional check-ins with your kids can help address and alleviate stress. This article also offers a helpful breakdown on reducing pandemic stress for children.
From stress reduction to mood improvement to actually strengthening immune systems, there are endless benefits to time spent outdoors, especially for children. Plus, during a pandemic, this is probably the safest place for them to roam. Seek out new natural spaces in your neighborhood and consider taking up outdoor-focused hobbies as family-like cycling, hiking, bird watching, or gardening.