When children are small, parents want to protect them from every possible injury. Many would probably roll them in bubble wrap if it could keep them from skinned knees or broken bones.
But germs are a stealthy opponent. You quickly realize this once your children start interacting with others. Runny noses and coughs make it to your house in shockingly short order.
Why some germs might be good for you
Research tells us that some level of germ exposure is beneficial to children as they grow. The science behind this “dirt is good” mantra boils down to the point that if you allow your kids to play outside and refrain from running after them with a giant bottle of hand sanitizer every five minutes, the germs they pick up in their natural environment will actually stimulate their immune system, making their bodies healthier.
Helping kids build a healthy immune system is one of the best ways to equip them to fight off germs. A strong immune system means they will be less likely to pick up every sniffle that is making the rounds. Here are a few tips to help support their immune systems.
Clean hands are key
Teach your kids to wash their hands frequently. There’s a reason the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) refers to handwashing as a do-it-yourself vaccine: It’s one of the biggest and easiest things you can do to reduce your chances of getting sick.
A good wash requires at least 20 seconds of vigorous rubbing, using soap and warm water. Read more in Hand hygiene: How often do you wash your hands?
Teach them to avoid touching their face
According to the CDC, people touch their eyes, nose and mouth about 25 times per hour without even realizing it. Each one of those is an opportunity for germs to enter the body.
The less they touch their face the better. When they do, you can hope their hands are clean.
Get them to bed on time
Most kids need at least 9-11 hours of shut-eye each night. Sleep is one of the things that help keep our immune system strong. But with school, homework, sports and the amount of time they spend in front of screens, some children are getting shortchanged.
If that’s true in your house, help your kids set a bedtime routine they can stick to. Turn off TV and tech at least a half-hour before bed and help them wind down before they brush their teeth and say goodnight.
Make sure they eat a healthy diet
We all know the pint-sized crowd doesn’t always love green, leafy vegetables that are so good for our bodies. But a nutritious diet rich in vitamins and minerals helps support their immune systems.
Need some advice? Read Veggie standoff: Ensuring kids get their nutrients for some helpful suggestions.
Add a daily supplement
Getting nutrients from food is the best source, but supplements, can help fill nutrient gaps and support their immune system. Vitamins C, D and E along with probiotics, zinc and echinacea all play a role in supporting the immune system.
Once you help your children build a strong immune system, they’ll be better equipped to avoid the latest bugs making the rounds. Need some tips for the adults in your life? Read Preparing for cold and flu season.