Children are curious. They touch everything they can get their hands on. And when they’re at school or day care, they’re constantly around other kids who do the same. Unfortunately, this translates to a lot of germ-spreading.
While you can’t completely germ-proof your family (which science says isn’t actually a good idea anyway), there’s a bunch you can do to boost your child’s immunity, which will help ward off nasty bugs that make them sick.
Below are six top immunity-boosting strategies that will help safeguard against all those schoolyard germs. And if despite your best efforts, your kid does get a doozy (it happens), you can see a reputable doctor quickly using Solv, an app that lets you book last-minute appointments in just a few taps.
Teach them A+ hand-washing habits
When children touch their germy fingers to their face, it’s a recipe for a cold. That’s why one of the most important ways to keep kids healthy is to be a stickler about hand-washing.
The proper way to wash hands is to wet them with clean, running water (warm or cold), lather them up with soap (don’t forget the back and between the fingers), and then scrub them together for at least 20 seconds. (You can time it by humming the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice). Then rinse them under clean, running water, and dry using a clean towel (or air dry).
Every day after school, ask your kids to walk you through how many times they washed up that day. This will help reinforce the importance of the habit.
Limit their sugar intake
We all know that tons of sugar equals hyperactivity. But there’s another reason to be wary of the stuff—it’s an immune system enemy. Excessive sugar intake messes up the balance between good and bad bacteria in our bodies (we need some types of bacteria to fight infections), which is taxing on the immune system. And a weakened immune systems makes kids (and everyone, for that matter) more susceptible to colds and flus. So limit those after-school treats.
Feed them kefirs and yogurt
Mix up your packed lunches by throwing in some low-sugar yogurts and kefirs. They have all kinds of that good, immunity-supporting bacteria we were talking about. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickled vegetables also have this benefit, so sneak some of those into sandwiches.
Make some bone broth
Bone broth is rich in minerals that support the immune system. For the full benefit, you’ll want to make yours from scratch, using an actual bone (here’s a great recipe). Add in noodles and pasta to make it more appetizing for your kids.
Drizzle elderberry syrup
There are tons of plants that contain awesome immunity-boosting compounds. For kids, a particularly effective one is elderberry syrup (you can find it at most health food stores or make your own), which is packed with antioxidants and Vitamin C. A key selling point of elderberry syrup is that it’s super easy to mix into your kids regular diet—just drizzle it over their morning pancakes or oatmeal.
Bake in down time
Getting enough rest is key for a healthy immune system. So avoid over-packing your children’s schedule with too many activities during the school year. They need plenty of time to recharge. Sleep hygiene is also crucial, especially after an action and stimulus-filled day. (The National Sleep Foundation has some good guidelines to follow).
Flus and colds are going to happen. But these immunity-boosting strategies can help reduce their frequency.