As we walk our children through the school gates this September, its not only their brains that are beginning a journey of education. Starting school is a pivotal moment for a child’s immune system.
Their exposure to bugs whether it be bacteria, fungi or viruses increases exponentially and unfortunately we’re no longer there to wipe noses and clean hands. Granted, many of these bugs are benign but its worth being aware of the ways in which you can support your child’s body at this crucial time.
Ensuring children get a healthy portion of fruit and vegetables a day can supply then with the vitamins and anti-oxidants their body needs to build a healthy immune system. In particular those rich in vitamin C are known to have immune boosting qualities. Moreover diets high in sugar have shown to reduce the effectiveness of white blood cells ,which are important in fighting bacteria and viruses.
Those battles to get our children into bed are not only good for routine but studies have shown that early nights are a must for growing children. Not getting enough sleep can impair the body’s ability to produce proteins that help fight infection and reduce inflammation. On average, a child needs between 10-14 hours sleep a night, in a dark room, away from electronic distractions.
The majority of infections will be passed around classrooms via touch. Teaching children to wash their hands routinely and independently can significantly reduce the transmission of infection.
It is wall known within medicine that stress can compromise immunity. Children’s bodies have the same response to stress that adults do. When cortisol and adrenaline levels rise, immune cells are lowered. Once the school day is done try to promote a period of calm each evening with gentle exercise or creative play.
What’s important to remember is that despite our best efforts children will develop coughs and colds, tummy bugs and sore throats. Its a rite of passage for any child starting school and not something to fear. Educating the immune system is an important process of growing up. However if you have concerns that your child is becoming regularly unwell, it would be advisable to see your GP.