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Strengthening a strong immune system in children

Introduction

Immune System simplified : This network of tissues, cells and organs first tries to keep out germs like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites and then deals with them if they manage to get in. If it senses something in your body that could be bad for you, it triggers the release of special cells. These travel to where the trouble is, attack the intruder, and help get rid of it.

The immune system protects your child’s body from outside invaders. These include germs and toxins. The immune system is made up of different organs, cells, and proteins that work together.
There are 2 main parts of the immune system:

  1. The innate immune system. You are born with this.
  2. The adaptive immune system. You develop this when your body is exposed to microbes or chemicals released by microbes.

These 2 immune systems work together.

Innate Immune System

This is your child’s rapid response system. It is the first to respond when it finds an invader. It is made up of the skin, the eye’s cornea, and the mucous membrane that lines the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary tracts. These all create physical barriers to help protect your child’s body. They protect against harmful germs, parasites (such as worms), or cells (such as cancer). The innate immune system is inherited. It is active from the moment your child is born. When this system recognizes an invader, it goes into action right away. The cells of this immune system surround and cover the invader. The invader is killed inside the immune system cells (called phagocytes).

Adaptive Immune System

The acquired immune system, with help from the innate system, makes cells (antibodies) to protect your body from a specific invader. These antibodies are developed by cells called B lymphocytes after the body has been exposed to the invader. The antibodies stay in your child’s body. It can take several days for antibodies to form. But after the first exposure, the immune system will recognize the invader(memory cells) and defend against it. The acquired immune system changes during your child’s life. Immunizations train your child’s immune system to make antibodies to protect him or her from harmful diseases.

The cells of both parts of the immune system are made in different organs of the body, including:

  • Adenoids. Two glands located at the back of the nasal passage.
  • Bone marrow. The soft, spongy tissue found in the center of few bone cavities.
  • Lymph nodes. Small organs shaped like beans, which are located all over the body and connect via the lymphatic vessels.
  • Lymphatic vessels. A network of channels all over the body that carries lymphocytes (immune cells) to the lymphoid organs and bloodstream.
  • Peyer’s patches. Lymphoid tissue in the small intestine.
  • Spleen. A fist-sized organ located in the left side of the belly (abdominal) cavity.
  • Thymus. Gland that is in front of the windpipe (trachea) behind the breastbone, in upper chest.
  • Tonsils. Two oval masses in the back of the throat.

As parents, keeping our children happy, healthy and safe from any illness becomes paramount, more so in present days. Nothing pains us more than seeing our little one fall prey to cough, cold and other infectious diseases. As the child begins preschool, these become more common and seemingly impossible to avoid. Building immunity becomes key at this stage. Here are a few simple ways that we can build immunity right from birth.

Ways to Strengthen Kids’ Immune System

Breastfeed your Baby

Colostrum present in the mother’s milk is considered the gold standard in building a baby’s immunity. Studies have shown that babies who are breastfed for at least six months have a better developed immune system and are less prone to infections and allergies.

Stick to the Immunisation Schedule

Ensure that the vaccination schedule advised by the paediatrician is uninterrupted and the child gets the required shots on time. This is vital for all children, especially those with asthma and other chronic health issues.

Serve up a Healthy Platter

Encourage your child to eat the rainbow, serving fruits and vegetables of all colours. Berries, bell peppers and broccoli are brightly coloured and rich in antioxidants. Foods with excess sugar and junk food should be limited to an occasional treat rather than a regular feature.

Maintain a Healthy Gut

Gut health is critical to a good digestive system, where a majority of all infections arise. Food / drinks rich in probiotics strengthens the intestinal tract and aids the growth of good bacteria.

Get Enough Sleep

Most children need between 10 to 14 hours of uninterrupted sleep. A set routine for bedtime could include a warm bath, light massage or reading together for some time. An energised and well-rested child is better equipped to keep infections at bay.

Stay Active

Exercise plays a huge role in overall fitness. An hour of activity in the park or even an indoor playground can work wonders for a child’s health and boost the immune system. Exercising together or playing a sport as a family is fun and a great way to bond and stay fit.

Make Hygiene a Habit

Good hygiene keeps germs and infections away. Simple habits like washing hands after play, before and after meals, and after using the toilet should be stressed upon so they become a habit.

Add Vitamin Supplements to Diet

Childhood is a critical time for growth and brain development, so specific vitamins and supplements may be recommended. For some children with poor eating habits, supplementation may be very important. Your child may need some vitamin and/or mineral supplementation to overcome a vitamin deficiency which he or she is lacking and to boost immune system. Mild vitamin deficiencies are difficult to recognize and may be overlooked in early stages.

CONCLUSION

Breastfeeding protects babies’ immune systems during the first year of life. The infant becomes more susceptible to infection after this time. Getting a cold, cough, bruises and cuts are unavoidable parts of childhood. Providing our children with healthy food, habits and environment goes a long way in ensuring that these ailments are short and not frequent. A child’s immune system will be boosted if they acquire good habits and good vitamin supplements.

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