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Curious about what the best immune boosters for kids are? While it may seem impossible to avoid colds and germs during the school year (or the winter months), there are actually quite a few things you can do to strengthen your child’s immune system. Stay tuned to discover 25 of the best immune boosters for babies, toddlers, and children!
Now that we have entered flu season, you’re probably doing everything you can to keep your children happy and healthy. While some viral infections are inevitable, there are plenty of immunity boosters for kids that will help decrease their frequency and severity.
When you first think about things you can do to boost your child’s immune system, you might be thinking about supplements or vitamins. And while supplements are definitely important and can help, there are actually so many other things you can do that will make the vitamins your child takes even more effective!
Read on to learn more about children’s immune systems in general, and what you can do to help your child remain healthy throughout the entire year.
How Does A Child’s Immune System Develop?
When a child is born, its immune system is still very much in the works. While the baby is in utero, its immune system backs off to tolerate the mother’s cells. Then, after it’s born, the immune system starts developing from scratch.
An infant’s immune system is strengthened every time they are infected with germs or a virus. Slowly but surely, the immune system will create antibodies to protect the baby as baby gets older. Of course, parents can utilize baby immune support to help along the way. (More on that later.)
What Are Signs That Your Child’s Immune System Is Weak?
How can you tell that your baby’s immune system is developing as it should? Look out for the warning signs of a weak immune system:
- They are frequently sick. Your baby might get recurrent and frequent respiratory infections, such as the common cold or flu.
- Delayed healing. Healing of cuts and scrapes depends on a healthy immune system. If the immune system is weak, very mild wounds might take weeks or months to heal.
- Failure to gain weight. Being underweight or having poor growth patterns might indicate your baby’s immune response is on the weaker side.
- Nutritional deficiencies. Children with weak immune systems may have poor nutrition retention (or for picky eaters, poor nutritional intake). This resonates in factors like skin and hair changes, brittle nails, and easy bruising.
What Types Of Illnesses Are Common In Kids During Winter?
The common cold is most often the reason kids stay home from school during the winter months. Influenza (flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), pneumonia, strep throat, and ear infections are all common among children as well, especially during the school year when germs spread more easily!
How Does Breastfeeding Boost A Baby’s Immune System?
One of the best things you can do for your baby’s immunity is to breastfeed them. This is because breast milk contains essential nutrients, ample white blood cells, and turbo-charged immune-boosting antibodies.
Those antibodies are most apparent in colostrum, which is the first milk that comes out post-birth. However, antibodies remain present in breast milk for as long as the mother continues to nurse. Therefore, rest assured that you’re passing on protection from infectious diseases every time you nurse your child.
That said, if you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, you shouldn’t feel guilty at all – because while breastfeeding does help create a strong immune system, there are 23 other things in this list that also accomplish the same result!
What Kinds Of Things Strengthen A Kid’s Immune System?
Wondering what the best immune boosters for kids are? A good place to start is to make sure they eat the right foods, get plenty of sleep, and engage in physical activity. In some cases, you can boost kids’ immunity with supplements. However, there are plenty of natural immune boosters for toddlers and kids that you can try first.
25 Best Immune Boosters For Kids
Want to make sure your kiddo is in tip-top shape as we enter the winter season? Here are some kids’ immune boosters to help you do just that:
As I mentioned earlier, breastfeeding is probably the best immune booster for babies. Not only does breast milk contain infection-fighting antibodies, but the nutrients in breast milk (carbohydrates and protein) are easily absorbed by your baby.
Making sure they’re getting enough sleep is another way you can boost your child’s immunity. As we sleep, our bodies produce immune-boosting cells to protect us. As a result, lack of sleep is often linked to getting sick.
If you’re unsure how much sleep your child needs, here is a quick overview:
- Aged 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
- Aged 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
- Aged 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
- Teenagers 13-18 years: 8-10 hours
Some people believe that not washing their hands is a way to boost immunity. However, that’s not necessarily the case. Handwashing is the first line of defense when it comes to avoiding illness, as it eliminates many of the germs you have encountered.
While reducing germs isn’t technically a kids immune booster, it does eliminate some of the stress on young immune systems and is basically a preventative measure since your child’s immune system has less “work” to do if it’s not fighting a bunch of germs at once.
Make sure your child is washing their hands for at least 20 seconds (a good way to encourage kids to do this is to have them sing “Twinkle Twinkle” or “Happy Birthday” twice while they lather up, before rinsing).
Regular exercise and activity can be one of the best immune boosters for kids, because it increases the number of natural killer cells in our bodies — this is true for both children and adults. So, if your young children (or even older children) have trouble embracing active lifestyles, get the whole family to exercise together by partaking in biking, hiking, walking, and/or backyard sports.
After 2+ years of combatting a global pandemic, masking has proven effective at reducing the spread of regular germs and viruses. Therefore, if your kid is showing signs of a weakened immune system, wearing a protective mask in germ-ridden places (like airports, for example) can make a big difference. I like these kids KN95 masks from GreenSupply that come in lots of fun prints and two sizes.
Vaccines can help protect against certain diseases by imitating an infection. The imitation teaches your immune system how to fight the virus, which can help with future exposure. If you aren’t sure which vaccinations to get, the CDC has a list of all recommended vaccinations to get between birth and a child’s 18th birthday (the most common being an annual flu shot).
Zinc is another immune booster for kids. Not only does it have antioxidant properties, but it supports a healthy inflammation response. Therefore, getting the right amount of zinc is essential for maintaining immune function. While you can use mineral supplements, zinc is also abundant in beef, shellfish, baked beans, chicken, yogurt, cashews, and chickpeas.
8. Don’t Go Overboard On Antibiotics
Have you ever heard people say that too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing? Overusing antibiotics creates antibiotic-resistant germs and antibiotic-resistant properties in harmless bacteria, so avoid going overboard and only use antibiotics when your child has a bacterial infection that can’t be treated with other methods (talk to your pediatrician to figure out when antibiotics are appropriate).
Antioxidants are one of the best immune boosters for kids, because they are natural compounds that stabilize free radicals which damage our cells’ tissues over time.
While we can’t avoid free radicals entirely, an antioxidant-rich diet can help balance them out. Antioxidant-rich foods like citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, leafy green vegetables, brussels sprouts, and bell peppers help to regulate oxidative stress and inflammation in the immune system.
Elderberry, also known as Sambucus nigra, is an actual berry that grows on a tree called the Elder tree. Elderberry is a powerful antioxidant that has been historically used to lessen the duration and severity of colds and flus, but it’s a great option for boosting children’s immune systems overall and reducing inflammation in the body. These Elderberry drops for toddlers and older kids from Gaia Herbs is one of my favorite kids immunity vitamins.
11. Probiotics And Prebiotics
Probiotics (aka good gut bacteria) are microorganisms that treat digestive diseases and boost digestive health. Prebiotics, on the other hand, function as a food source for that gut bacteria. As your child grows, they will need both probiotics and prebiotics to boost gut health and stimulate their immune system.
Generally, the best way for your kid to get this good bacteria is through food sources like yogurt, buttermilk, sourdough bread, and cottage cheese.
If you’re thinking about probiotic supplements for your children, make sure to talk to your pediatrician first. (These are my picks for the 10 Best Probiotics for Kids if your pediatrician supports giving your child a probiotic.) Additionally, your child can get prebiotics through a healthy diet of apples, bananas, asparagus, and onions.
12. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the best vitamins for kids’ immune systems, as it helps fight off bad bacteria and viruses. You can receive vitamin D through the absorption of sunlight, eating oily fish and other vitamin D-fortified foods, or taking dietary supplements. The best vitamin d supplement I’ve found are these Vitamin D drops from Raise Them Well.
13. Balanced Diet (Lots of Veggies!)
A well-balanced diet consisting of plenty of fruits and veggies offers terrific immune support for kids. Berries, green veggies, and dark leafy greens are loaded with antioxidants, which protect cells from damage and disease. Additionally, healthy foods rich in zinc, probiotics, and plant-based omega-3 fatty acids also offer immune support.
14. Vitamin A
Another immune system vitamin for kids is vitamin A, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. To make sure your child is getting enough, fill their diet with milk (fortified), cheese, eggs, and yellow-to-orange veggies. You can also opt for vitamin A supplements.
15. Multivitamins for Picky Eaters
In households with children, it’s not uncommon to be faced with picky eaters. This can make it a challenge to get all the necessary vitamins your kids need to thrive. If this is the case, a good way to strengthen your kids’ immune systems is through natural supplements and multivitamins. Not sure where to get started? Here are the best multivitamins for kids that I’ve found that can really help with immunity and overall health!
16. Other Immune-Boosting Vitamins
Looking for a way to boost your kids’ immune systems? Essential vitamins and antioxidants will surely do the trick. Check out this guide to the best immune system vitamins for kids to figure out which ones are right for your child.
17. Reduce Stress
As you can probably imagine, stress negatively impacts many parts of the body, especially the immune system. Therefore, helping your children reduce their stress levels is an easy way to boost their immune health. This can be done through deep breathing practices, exercise, sleeping well, dedicated 1:1 time with you, and talking through their problems.
18. Neti Pot
Nasal irrigation devices (aka neti pots) can help your kids fight allergies, sinus infections, and other conditions. Using a neti pot with warm salt water can help flush out and kill off any viruses. It can be one of the best immune boosters for kids because it allows the mucus membranes to clear and function as they should.
19. Staying Hydrated
Drinking water carries oxygen to your cells, which ensures your bodily systems function as they should. Water also helps flush toxins from the body. Drinking ample water prevents toxins from building up your kids’ bodies and negatively impacting their developing immune systems.
20. Brushing Teeth
Making good hygiene (aka brushing and flossing) part of your child’s daily routine will help prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria in their mouth. The result? Their immune system can focus all of its efforts on fighting the cold, flu, and other viruses.
21. Go Outside
Did you know that one of the best immune boosters is simply spending time outside? Not only are you getting vitamin D from the sunshine, but many plants release immune-boosting compounds into the air. Being outside can be one of the easiest immunity boosters for preschoolers, since all they want to do is run around anyway!
22. Baby Massages
Believe it or not, giving your baby a massage can boost their immunity. Just a few minutes of massaging per day can stimulate the production of white blood cells, which will help them fight off infection. This doesn’t only apply to babies though – giving your kids a light massage before bed can aid in restful sleep, decreased stress, which both contribute to a boost in immunity!
23. Reduce Sugar
Aside from being not-so-great for your child’s overall health, studies have shown that sugar spikes can suppress kids’ immune systems. So, if your children are consuming lots of refined carbohydrates and drinks with artificial sweeteners, they might be reducing their body’s ability to fight disease.
24. Get a Pet
I bet it’s hard to believe that the act of petting an animal can provide an immunity boost. However, it’s true! Studies show that petting an animal increases the salivary levels of an immune antibody. Additionally, animal exposure lowers the level of the stress hormone cortisol (and less stress equals better immune function).
If you’ve been debating giving into your child’s requests for a pet, and you’re looking for one of the easiest, best immune boosters for kids, it may be time to consider it!
25. Backyard Gardens
Planting an immunity garden in your backyard will do wonders for your kid’s immune system, as it offers unlimited access to nutrient-dense, immune-boosting vegetables that support your family’s well-being. Not to mention, it gives your kids another reason to get outside and soak up some vitamin D.
Kids’ Immunity FAQs
Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about baby, teenager, and toddler immune support:
Citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, garlic, ginger, spinach, and yogurt are some of the best foods to increase your child’s immunity naturally and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, try to make sure they are eating a diverse diet of whole foods containing beneficial nutrients like zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A, and B vitamins.
Looking to supplement your child’s diet with an immunity booster? Choose supplements that contain ample amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin D. If you need help, here’s a list of The Best Vitamins for Immune System Support.
Yes! The berries and flowers of elderberry are jam-packed with vitamins and antioxidants designed to boost your immune system. Elderberry syrup can also help fight inflammation, lessen stress, and support heart health.
More Resources To Help!
Want to make sure your little ones are all set for flu season? Check out these helpful guides:
Hopefully, after reviewing the best kids’ immunity vitamins and boosters, you have a good idea of how to support your family’s immune systems. Go ahead and give these immunity boosters a try, and let me know which one worked best in the comments. Keep checking back for more tips, tricks, and hacks on keeping your children healthy and happy year-round!