Immunity in Kids
The what’s and why’s for protecting the little ones.
Newly born babies are delicate and susceptible to illnesses (even the slightest of colds) because their immune systems are far from being fully developed at the time. But nature has a way to protect the little ones from illness – a mother’s “passive immunity” is what sees a baby through, till its own robust immunity system takes over the reins.
The Maternal Link
During pregnancy itself, a mother passes on disease-fighting antibodies through the placenta. This blessing of ‘acquired immunity’ remains with baby once born, and sees it through the first few months of life. Obviously, the mother herself needs to be in the pink of health to pass some good genes and strength down to her child. An example of this is, if the mother had suffered from chicken pox as a child, she will invariably pass on the chicken pox antibodies over to her baby, which will prove as protection in its near future.
After the child is born, it’s recommended that it be fed breast milk up to a certain age. A mother’s breast milk is filled with protective immunoglobulins that work to fight off bacteria and viruses, which formulae will not have.
After the initial dependency on breastfeeding, the baby’s immune system relies lesser and lesser on this passive immunity, and starts taking matters into its own hands. During this time, global immunisation programmes should be made use of, especially in case of premature babies. When it comes in contact with bacteria, viruses and fungi, the baby’s immunity system gets plenty practice to wage an attack against them.
There are many strategies one can plan to ensure a child develops a strong immune system. All of the below, however, require medical consultation and endorsement from your personal doctor.
Keep baby away from sick individuals
Ensure clean hands when dealing with newborns
Use baby probiotics to ensure a healthy intestinal tract
Ensure adequate exposure to sunlight or vitamin D
Provide it with a balanced nutrition
Administer relevant vaccinations at the right time periods as per doctor orders
Let them go out there and get dirty
Acquired immunity requires exposure to microbes. Modern lifestyle routines of families tend to reduce or remove the opportunity for your baby’s immune system to face a range of microbes in the environment. This is why children are encouraged to play out on the ground, climb trees and explore their environment. This way they will be continuously exposed to pathogens, which give the immune system ample room to practice and grow its skills.
Of course “nagging” the kids to eat their 3 meals a day and to avoid junk food comes naturally to all mothers. It is the most practical and sensible advice to build a strong immunity. A balanced diet that greedily packs all essential vitamins, proteins, minerals and fatty acids in good measure will suffice to stimulate a hard defense against diseases and infections for kids. Rule of thumb is to stay away from excess sugar and oil, artificial food colouring and soda – all of which are present in junk foods.
Despite the best of efforts, immunity may be affected in a child’s body. To battle these, herbal dietary supplements are known to help children that are often fatigued, feel restless or have coping issues at school. A spoon of Chyavanaprasha every night before bed will do the trick. Guduchi and Amalaki tablets too are often advised by pediatricians. Overall, try and incorporate as much organic products and produce into the kids’ diet and stay away from processed junk.
Avoid Unnecessary Antibiotics and Vaccines:
Antibiotics are important, but just a small dose whenever, only absolutely necessary is more than enough. Consult with more than one doctor to maintain a safe number of vaccinations too for your child.
Kids are stronger than you think! So don’t sweat it and go overboard, dear mothers!