Supporting your little one’s immune system

Supporting your little one’s immune system

Just like a child’s digestive system or respiratory system, the immune system takes time to develop and mature. Supporting it during this time with good food and adequate rest is essential. To find out more about supporting your little one’s immune system during this important time, read more.

You’re never too old – or young – to look after all systems of the body, including the immune system.

Just like the digestive system or the respiratory system, the immune system is with us from birth. However, just as those systems take time to grow, develop and mature, so does the immune system.

An infant’s immune system begins to develop before it’s born, being heavily influenced by the health of the immune system of the pregnant mum. The placenta allows for the passing of nutrients from mother to baby, and in the third trimester of pregnancy (the last 3 months of pregnancy), the passing of antibodies to help protect the baby when it’s first born.  The level of antibody protection is heavily dependent on the strength of the mother’s own immune system, part of the reason why a healthy diet full of a variety of nutrients is so important during pregnancy.

Once born, the baby’s immune system takes over. Breastfeeding continues to offer this antibody protection while the child is slowly exposed to a variety of pathogens in the environment, beginning the building of their own immune system. The reality is a child’s immune system does not reach full maturity until around 12-14 years of age[1].

A child’s immune system is the first line of defence against foreign pathogens and illness so supporting it to remain healthy throughout childhood goes a long way to supporting a child’s overall general health and wellbeing. Here’s just a few ways to support your little one’s immune system to help keep them healthy all year round.

Get plenty of sleep

Sleep is the time the body takes to rest, repair and recharge for the following day. A child needs more sleep than an adult for this to happen. The Australian Sleep Health Foundation recommends anywhere between 9–12 hours for children aged 2 to 13 years[2]. Sleep and the immune system are deeply interconnected. It is believed the better the sleep the more efficient the immune system functions and conversely, the poorer the sleep the more susceptible an individual is to infection[3].


Eat an array of fresh fruits and vegetables

Did you know that less than 5% of Australian children aged 4-11 meet the recommended serves of fruits and vegetables every day?[4]  Fruits and vegetables provide a diverse range of vitamins and minerals important for maintaining the health and function of the immune system including vitamins C, D and zinc.

Nutrients for little ones and immunity

The immune system needs vitamin D for healthy functioning. Obtained by sunlight and then converted in the body into its active form, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Specific vitamin D receptors are present on B-cells, T-cells and antigen presenting cells, all essential to the immune response, highlighting the importance of vitamin D and immunity.

Vitamin C has long been known for its important role in immunity, ever since it was first discovered to keep sailors healthy in the 19th century. A vitamin that is not able to be made in the body, vitamin C must be obtained in the diet to maintain adequate levels in the body.

Finally, zinc is required for many body functions, including immune function. Zinc is found is higher amounts in shellfish, legumes, nuts, seeds and meats, foods that generally feature in only very small amounts, if at all, in a child’s diet.

Herbs of Gold Children’s Immune Care features vitamins C and D, with zinc and the favourite children’s herb Echinacea to support immune system health in children. Echinacea, along with these nutrients, support a child’s immune system to fight illness while supporting general health and wellbeing in children.

Echinacea also has a long history of traditional use in Western herbal medicine to relieve symptoms of common colds and flu and reduce the severity of symptoms of mild upper respiratory tract infections if they arise.

 

[1] Simon, A. K., Hollander, G. A., & McMichael, A. (2015). Evolution of the immune system in humans from infancy to old age. Proceedings. Biological Sciences282(1821), 20143085.

[2] Sleep Health Foundation. (2016). How much sleep do you really need? https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/how-much-sleep-do-you-really-need.html

[3] Asif, N., Iqbal, R., & Nazir, C. F. (2017). Human immune system during sleep. American Journal of Clinical and Experimental Immunology6(6), 92–96.

[4] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2018). National Health Survey. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-conditions-and-risks/national-health-survey-first-results/latest-release

 

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