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How to Boost Your Child's Immune System

Oct 12

As we head into the school year after a summer with COVID-19 on the rise, many parents are asking: What can we do to keep our children healthy? Are there ways to boost the immune system and ward off illnesses such as COVID-19, the flu, and the common cold?

The answer is yes — but there are no magic wands or magic supplements. So, how to boost immune system in kids? The best way to keep the immune system healthy is to take the necessary steps to keep kids healthy through diet, exercise, habits, and routine health checkups. As boring as that may sound, it’s tried and true.

Here are 5 tips for boosting your child’s immune system to help keep your children healthy this school year.

  1. Give them healthy diets
  2. Create a healthy sleep schedule
  3. Encourage activities that give them exercise
  4. Help them to manage stress
  5. Keep them up to date on vaccines

Let’s dive into more details for each of these 5 tips in the sections below.


Healthy Diets for Kids to Boost Immune System

Healthy diets for kids have lots of fruits and vegetables! Five servings a day are recommended, and they should take up half of every meal plate. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein can help in building a child’s immune system. A healthy diet also has dairy or another source of calcium, and healthy fats, like vegetable oils.

The foods to avoid are processed foods, foods with added sugar, and foods with unhealthy fats, like the saturated fats found in animal products. That doesn’t mean your child can’t ever eat cookies or ice cream. But if you want your child to be healthy, they shouldn’t eat those foods every day. (The Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition has suggestions for healthier baked goods and other ways to make your family’s diet healthier).

There are many supplements that claim to boost your immune system. While the jury is still out as to whether most of them make a real difference, none of them take the place of a healthy diet. If you have a child who refuses vegetables or otherwise has a limited diet, a multivitamin with iron may make sense; talk to your doctor about whether vitamins or supplements are a good idea for your child.

A mother and child prepare a healthy meal in their kitchen


Sleep Schedule for Kids

We all need sleep to refresh and recharge our bodies, and that includes children. The amount of sleep a child needs varies by age (from 12 to 16 hours a day for infants to eight to 10 hours for teens) and also from child to child (some just need more than others). Create a consistent sleep schedule for children and encourage healthy sleep by limiting screens — for teens, devices really should be shut off an hour or two before bedtime and preferably not be in the bedroom at night — and keeping to a regular schedule.

Check out our article “How Sleep Impacts Your Health: Tips to Get Better Sleep” to see how much sleep is recommended for you and your kids based on age.

Two kids sleeping in bed


Exercise Activities for Children

Exercise keeps us healthy and less likely to get sick. Children should really be active for an hour a day. “Active” doesn’t have to mean playing a sport or going to the gym; it could be playing at the playground or going for a walk. More is not necessarily better; if you have a child who is a serious athlete, exercising several hours a day, make sure that the exercise isn’t eating into sleep or causing burnout, both of which could cause problems with the immune system.

Here are a few exercise ideas for children in Wichita, Kansas:

  • The Great Plains Nature Center has tons of fun, FREE things for kids to do. Take a hike on the Chisholm Trail Park path or try out one of their many kid-friendly programs.
  • Wichita has some of the greatest YMCAs in the country! The Greater Wichita YMCA offers lots of activities and sports for kids like swimming, basketball, rock climbing, gymnastics, and more!
  • Wichita has a ton of parks and open spaces where kids can run and play! We’re a big fan of Riverside Park because it has the Kansas Wildlife Exhibit: A mini, FREE zoo in the heart of Wichita!
  • The City of Wichita maintains more than 100 miles of bicycle paths, lanes, and other bicycle facilities. Many of the paths travel through and along scenic areas, such as the Arkansas River.
  • The Wichita City Crew is a FREE club for kids ages 12 and younger organized by the Wichita Department of Park and Recreation. They host free activities throughout the year, kids get club membership lanyards, and something special for their birthday when they sign up.
  • Encourage your kids to play outside, ride bicycles, fly a kite, and other fun activities that get them moving. Weather forcing you inside? How about a game of tag or hide-n-seek?
A group of kids running to school


Managing Your Child’s Stress

Stress makes us less healthy and more prone to infection. Make sure that kids have downtime to play and access to activities and people that make them happy. Spend time together as a family, and create opportunities for your children to talk about anything that might be worrying them. The COVID-19 pandemic made many children depressed or anxious, so if you have concerns about your child’s moods or emotional health, talk to your doctor.

Sad African American boy sits on bed with his head in his hands


Child Vaccines and Immunizations

Immunizations protect us from all sorts of illnesses. Check with your doctor or medical provider to see if your child is up to date on immunizations and their annual checkups.

The flu shot is recommended yearly for all people 6 months of age or older, and will be particularly important this year: not only is the combination of influenza and COVID-19 a bit frightening, but every cold symptom this winter means lost school or work while waiting for test results.

And please, vaccinate everyone in your family who is eligible against COVID-19 and get boosted. Anyone 6 months or older can now get the COVID-19 vaccine. It is safe, effective, free, and makes a big difference when it comes to preventing severe disease.