How to Boost Your Family’s Immune System
posted by Dr. Hall | December 23, 2016
Keeping kids healthy during the coldest months of the year can be a difficult task, but keeping yourself from getting sick as a parent can be just as tough. Besides solutions like doctor visits or medication, what are some ways to boost the immune system and keep your family healthy this winter?
For both children and adults, sleep is one of the largest factors in strengthening the immune system. We don’t know exactly why sleep is so vital to the body’s ability to fight disease naturally, but we know for certain that it is.
For parents, anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep per night is recommended. This can be difficult with younger children in the home, of course, but it’s important to get adequate sleep whenever possible.
For children, recommended sleep varies among ages and specific situations. Many newborns need up to 18 hours per night, and all kids below middle school age at the earliest should be receiving at least nine or ten hours per night. If your children struggle getting enough sleep at night, naps might be a good option.
Is there ever a time where eating more fruits and vegetables is bad for the body? Certainly not for the immune system, at least. The more food you can eat from the earth, the better. Try to serve your kids several servings of fruits and vegetables per day.Cutting out harmful foods are just as important, mainly those high in sugar. Sugar can damage vital cells in the immune system if you eat too much of it. Alternatively, things like garlic, chicken soup and anything high in vitamin C can help boost the immune system.
Exercise naturally helps your immune system, and not getting enough exercise can expose you or your children to more germs. There are plenty of ways to exercise that can be great for the whole family, no matter what age your children are:
There are other ways to keep you and your family healthy around this time of year including:
You may think it’s a myth, but there are documented connections between stress and hormones that damage your immune system. Taking care of your children and preparing for the holidays can bring about extra stress – look for ways to minimize it and enjoy yourself.
Breastfeeding is highly recommended for mothers looking to keep their child’s immune system as strong as possible. Breast milk is full of antibodies and white blood cells which boost the immune system, and it can help prevent issues that are common for young babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least a year.
If you are a smoker, work with your doctor for appropriate ways to quit. Secondhand smoke can be even more harmful to children than it is to adults. It can also weaken the immune system over time.
Antibiotics can be valuable in the right situations as they help fight off an infection when the immune system is unable to. However, many parents rely too much on antibiotics. More childhood illnesses are caused by viruses than bacteria, and too many antibiotics may cause certain antibiotic-resistant bacterias to form. This makes it tougher for the body to fight these basic infections on its own. Consult your pediatrician and follow his or her advice when dealing with antibiotics.
Brandon Hall, MD
Revere Health’s family medical practice in Lehi specializes in weight control, depression management, skin care, hormone replacement, cardiac conditions and cholesterol management, and we strive to provide our patients and their families with quality healthcare services. The number one way to provide safe, effective healthcare is to educate patients and make sure I listen to and understand their story and what they want to get out of their healthcare.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.