Back to school! How to boost my child’s immunity

August 15, 2021

Back to school! How to boost my child’s immunity
ماسة بيطار avatar

ماسة بيطار


Everybody is talking about COVID-19 and the recent developments pertaining to the virus to which we are trying to adapt. Many mothers have lately faced a challenge in finding their feet in regards to distance learning, but today we are on the verge of starting a new academic year. This year, although coronavirus can surge anywhere, most of the children will go back to school. What should you as a mother do to ensure your child’s safety at school?

Being physically present at school plays a very important role in academic achievement, in the development of social and emotional skills, in movement and sports, and in close follow-up by specialists in education and mental health. However, sending children to school may expose them to a high risk of coronavirus infection, therefore parents should take appropriate precautions to avoid being infected as much as possible.

In this article, I will share with you the most important precautions that you, as a mother, should follow in order to keep your child from contracting the virus and to boost his immunity in the best possible manner.

The most important point is to be transparent and frank while communicating with your child:
-    You can start by listening to your child while they tell you how they feel about going back to school: Are they scared? Happy? Worried?

-    Your mission as a mother is to make sure your child feels comfortable and relieved, and reassured that their feeling are normal.
-    Avoid showing your child your concerns about their return to school. The child can feel your stress immediately and can adopt your anxiety.

-    After listening to your child, you can start talking to them about their role in protecting themselves and those around them.

o    Talk to your child about the possibility of having symptoms similar to common cold. Tell them this is normal and there is no need to worry. Ask them to inform you as soon as these symptoms 
occur (fever, stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, tiredness and fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, vomiting and colic, diarrhea, decreased appetite, loss of sense of smell or taste, abdominal pain, eye redness or inflammation). If you have any doubts, it is better not to send the child to school and to consult a doctor.

o    Precautions that the child should follow at school:

Hence, you can prepare your child for going back to school by clearly telling them there are steps to follow to keep themselves and those around them safe: 

    Donning the protective mask correctly (covering the nose and mouth) - you should explain to them the reason for wearing the mask and why it is so important. Ensure that the child is able to wear it for several hours - you can also write the child’s name on the protective mask and give them a spare one in case the mask they are wearing is damaged.

    Washing hands is one of the most important protection methods. Children should wash with soap and water for at least 30 seconds (the child can be taught the song “Happy Birthday to you.” Encourage them to sing it twice while washing hands with soap and water, to make sure that 30 to 40 seconds have passed and the hands are cleansed of bacteria and viruses.

    Letting your child carry a hand sanitizer and teach him how to use it (Washing hands remains the best option, but if the child is in the classroom or far from any means of washing, they can use the sanitizer and rub their hands for 30 to 40 seconds)

    Making sure they keep a distance between them and their schoolmates According to the requirements of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, a distance of 2 meters must be maintained to avoid transmission of the virus. You can give the child an example of how far a distance 2 meters is, and instruct them to maintain this distance between themselves and those around them every time they remove their mask to drink water or eat food because the virus may be transmitted if the distance is less.

    It is preferable to eat meals and snacks in open spaces

    Do not touch the face, eyes, nose and mouth before sanitizing or washing your hands

    Do not sneeze or cough into the palm of your hand, but into a clean tissue or into the elbow.

-    More tips and habits to take care of your child’s health and immunity:

There is no one advice or food that would increase the body’s immunity   because immunity is a complex network and any bodily malfunction can negatively affect the body’s resistance to disease (for example, a deficiency in some vitamins in the body or fatigue and tiredness ...). Here are the following tips that would support your child's immunity in the best way:

o    Sleep schedule: Lack of sleep for a child leads to fatigue and therefore the body’s resistance to disease will be negatively affected, so your child will easily get sick: Make sure the child gets enough sleep every day because sleep is one of the most important factors for a strong immune system. 

o    Exercise (Playing sports): Sports have countless benefits and play a role in boosting the child’s immunity. Despite mothers’ fear of COVID-19 that prevents many children from engaging in group activities, the child should not stop exercising. But also excessive exercise negatively affects immunity. For this reason and according to international requirements, the child must exercise moderately for at least one hour a day.

o    Child stress relief: Some children may show a feeling of stress. Extreme stress can negatively affect the body’s immunity. Try to find activities that relieve your child's stress when you notice it. Try  also to make them feel safe and secure by talking to them.

Scientific studies have clearly shown that malnutrition negatively affects the health and immunity of the child which increases the risk of infections and diseases. Also, studies have shown that certain nutrients can maintain or improve immune function. By choosing healthy foods, you help boosting your child’s immunity to better fight the disease.
Foods to avoid (negatively affect immunity):
-    Processed foods high in preservatives and chemicals

-    Sugar and foods high in sugar
-    Adult smoking in places where children are present

Integrative nutrition for boosting immunity:
-    Food rich in vitamins and minerals essential for boosting immunity
o    Vitamin C - as citrus fruits - lemon, orange, mandarin and pomegranate
o    Zinc found in nuts and seeds (such as pumpkin seeds)
o    Vitamin D: The best way to get vitamin D is by exposure to sunlight, but vitamin D can also be found in sardines and salmon
o    Other vitamins and minerals that help boosting immunity: iodine, copper, iron, selenium and magnesium; Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin B

-    Vegetarian foods - especially vegetables and fruits because they contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants - it is preferable to get the rainbow colors from vegetables and fruits on a daily basis (red, yellow, orange, purple, white, green).

-    Protein: A sufficient amount must be eaten daily because the lack of protein in the body reduces the body’s immunity
-    A handful of nuts daily - such as almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts (they are rich in minerals, especially zinc and vitamin E, and walnuts in particular are rich in omega-3, all of which are essential for a healthy immune system)
-    Water: Often the child forgets to drink water for long hours. However, drinking water is essential to stimulate blood circulation and to rid the body of toxins and harmful substances.
-    Foods rich in immune-boosting properties:
o    Turmeric and ginger
o    Spinach and cabbage
o    Coconut oil
o    Olives and olive oil
o    Onions and garlic
o    Chili
o    Apple
o    Leafy green vegetables
o    Broccoli
o    Oregano

Importance of a healthy digestive system: The latest studies indicate the importance of a healthy digestive system in boosting immunity and reducing the risk of disease in adults and children. Experts believe that 60% of the immune system is present in the digestive system.

-    Friendly bacteria and probiotics: The environment in which friendly bacteria live in the digestive system has a direct role in protecting the immune system, and therefore if they are friendly, the immune system will react quickly and effectively to fight off the viral infection.
-    To improve the bacterial environment in the digestive system, you can either take a supplement of friendly bacteria (studies focus on the importance of the presence of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium to boost immunity) or foods rich in probiotics such as yogurt, pickles, tofu, fermented foods...

-    In addition to probiotics, take prebiotics ... Prebiotics are dietary fibers that feed friendly bacteria or probiotics.
o    Banana
o    Apple
o    Asparagus
o    Onions and garlic

Does my child need to take nutritional supplements?
If the child’s diet is healthy and complete and he gets enough sunlight, there is no need to take nutritional supplements.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a child who eats a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, milk and dairy products, and foods rich in protein can get all kinds of vitamins and minerals from food without the need for supplements.
If your child isn’t exposed to sunlight, you can consult a doctor to find out if they need a vitamin D supplement. If the child follows a strict diet or is selective in food, they may need a supplement of vitamins and minerals.
Make sure to consult the doctor before adding any food supplements to your child’s daily routine, and don't forget to check the quality of the product and the brand’s reputation before selecting it.