Ways to boost children's immunity during winter season

Updated on Nov 07, 2022 02:19 PM IST

Growing children are highly exposed to viral and bacterial infections in schools as well as playgrounds hence, need foods which help in building immune cells and repair body tissues to fight off these infections. Here's how parents can boost children's immunity during winters

Ways to boost children's immunity during winter season (Aleks)
Ways to boost children's immunity during winter season (Aleks)
ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi

While we all love winters, there’s no denying that it brings many health issues in children. With the winter season approaching and our continued battle with Covid-19, a high surge in infections is predicted this season among the paediatric population but though the surge in infection is not under parental control, boosting a child’s immune system absolutely is.

Children’s immunity is decided even before birth where the healthy lifestyle followed by the mother during her prenatal period is critically important for determining the health and immunity of the child to be born. During the last 3 months of pregnancy, antibodies from mothers are passed to their unborn babies through the placenta.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Manoj Kutteri, Wellness Director and CEO at Atmantan Wellness Centre, eplained, “The natural process of delivery helps the child to ingest the mother’s microbiome present in the vaginal fluid and this is one of the most important aspect of determining the innate immunity for the child. The newborn’s immune system in this way learns to distinguish between its own harmless molecules and foreign molecules. Once the baby is born, they need to be breastfed for a minimum of 1-2 years.”

He elaborated, “Breast milk also contains many antibodies and hence babies who are breastfed have passive immunity for longer. The thick yellowish milk (colostrum) produced for the first few days following birth is particularly rich in antibodies. The immunity received by the babies from their mother at birth is short lasting and will go away in weeks or months. Babies, like anyone else make their own antibodies when they are exposed to a virus or other germ and their immune system starts to work. It is therefore important for the child to be exposed to the surroundings and not be over protected. They must play outdoor and also exposed to the sun which help them to develop Vitamin D – a crucial vitamin to build immunity.”

He suggested the following steps to improve immunity in children during winters:

1. Drink warm water - Children have a tendency to drink ice water or cold water directly from the fridge. Drinking cold water during winter can result in many respiratory infections or inflammatory conditions. They should be given either warm water or boiled and cooled water. Water can also be boiled with cumin seeds or any other herbs.

2. Avoid fried foods - Winter is the time we all prefer to eat spicy and deep fried foods. Children loves to eat foods like French fries or nuggets etc. that are deep fried. Try to avoid these snacks and instead give them oven roasted alternatives.

3. Avoid unnecessary antibiotics usage - Common cold and mild flu like symptoms should be treated naturally and avoid the usage of too many antibiotics unless it is extremely needed. Intake of too many antibiotics can disrupt the microbial flora and compromised immunity

4. Exercise outdoors - Outdoor playing not only helps to improve their mood and mental activity, but also give an opportunity to get exposed to the sun and the natural environment. This can activate the immune systems and prepare them to be fully equipped to fight infections

5. Body massages with sesame or mustard oil - Children should be given massages at least once or twice a week with sesame or mustard oil and then a hot shower with salt water. This can help to rejuvenate the body by improving circulation and also promoting immune functions. Sesame oil also contain Vitamin E, which is an anti-oxidant that protects skin cells from damage and thus maintain their integrity. It also has phenolic compounds that has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-oxidant properties.

6. Improve sleep - Children must get quality sleep of around 9 hours. Sleep is an important aspect of a person’s lifestyle that helps to improve immunity as well

7. Drink milk with turmeric before bed time - Winter is a period which is prone to develop cough, allergies and other respiratory disorders. Children can be given warm milk with turmeric and black pepper before bed time and this can not only give them a great sleep but also reduce the tendency to develop phlegm.

Dr Poojanpreet Kaur, pediatrician at Humm Care, added to the list of ways to build children's immunity during the winter season, effortlessly, without burning big holes in your pocket or sweating a bucket in kitchen:

1) Play time - If your child is physically active, plays an outdoor sport for 1-2 hours then his body can handle stress much better than rest. Good work out releases endorphins which boost immunity.

2) Drink lots of water - A well hydrated body recovers well and stays well.

3) Zinc - Zinc rich food or both. Zinc rich foods are pumpkin, squash, and sesame seeds which are also high source of fibre and omega 3 fatty acids.

4) High protein diet - This is essential, choose your protein as per you taste , paneer, chicken, meat, soya, chick peas, rajma but never skip a protein rich meal. if your little one has a sweet tooth give besan laddus with lots of nuts.

5) Fatty acids - give your kids a handful of mixed nuts everyday. Nuts are a very good source of omega 3 fatty acids which help in building cells for immune system.

6) Avoid junk food, fried food, high sugary drinks, carbonated drinks, outside food.

According to Shweta Mishra, Nutritionist for child’s health at Gritzo, “There are various factors that affect a child’s immunity such as daily physical activity, personal hygiene and sleep schedule. Additionally, diet plays a major role in building immunity. Today, both parents and children have demanding schedules, due to which having a trusted source of nutrition is extremely important.”

She recommended, “Milk is a staple food for children. A child’s first-ever food is mother’s milk which is by far the best in standard compared to cow or buffalo milk. We need to also keep in mind that a healthy immune system helps in a child’s growth & development. Since a glass of milk alone can’t cater to a child’s growing needs, it is imperative to add personalized nutrition according to your child’s health goals. Nutrients like protein, iron, zinc, etc are known to boost immunity. Additionally personalized ingredients like Turmeric and Cinnamon also helps to retain body heat thus boosting the immune system of children during winters.”

Bringing her expertise to the same, Parul Sharma, Co-Founder of Gladful, said, “Growing children are highly exposed to viral and bacterial infections in schools as well as playgrounds. Parents needs to actively increase the proportion of foods which help in building immune cells and repair body tissues to fight off these infections. We strongly recommended diet rich in protein, vitamin C, zinc and iron during this time."

She highlighted, "When you consume protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids which is further broken down by enzymes to perform different body functions. Most of us just believe that protein helps muscle growth and repair but the truth is that it performs many other important functions for the body which include hormone balance, organ structuring and forming new cells. According to the British Journal of Nutrition, amino acids from protein limit the growth of microbial infections and regulate antioxidant response thereby preventing inflammation in the body. While lean meat, chicken and eggs are great sources of protein, vegetarians need to consciously increase the consumption of this macronutrient through legumes, soy, rajma and Protein-based snacks which can be eaten through the day or be easily fit in the school lunch box. For parents, this is a time to be conscious around what we put inside our bodies to stay strong on the outside.”

Follow these tips and enjoy good health.

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