Children are back at school, which means they’re going to be exposed to bugs. Try these ideas to keep them healthy.
Breast-feeding, letting minor childhood ailments run their course without taking unnecessary antibiotics, and controlling exposure to environmental toxins and allergens will lay the groundwork for healthy immune system development.
A new school, peer group problems, and learning challenges can all trigger anxiety and stress, which in turn interfere with T and B cell function (the major cellular components of the immune response). Enlist support from a counsellor, and teach your child useful stress-management techniques, such as deep breathing, visualisation and journaling.
Environmental pollutants can compromise immunity. Reduce or eliminate household and garden chemicals and swap to natural and plant-based products. Buy organic produce and avoid processed foods. Use dust covers on mattresses and choose timber or tiled floors, not carpets. Have your home checked for damp and mould and take steps to remedy them. Limit screen time.
At any age, exercise enhances immune function and relieves stress. However, where an adult can get away with just three 30-minute exercise sessions a week, children need more. Children and teens should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day. Most of this can be moderate activity, like walking, but at least three days a week should be vigorous activity, such as playing sport.
Obesity is a key risk factor in the development of all major diseases. Maintaining a healthy body weight from childhood onwards is a sensible way to support long-term immune health as well as overall wellbeing and self-esteem. Avoid foods containing added sugar, all refined or processed foods and junk food. Check labels and avoid food colourings, additives and preservatives, wherever possible.
Eat to boost immunity
In addition to providing a balanced diet, you can help maintain your child’s peak disease-fighting capacity with these immune-boosting snacks and lunch-box ideas.
A rich source of vitamins A, C, E and zinc, apricots support antibody production, and promote detoxification and waste elimination.
- 2 cups desiccated coconut
- 1 cup pitted Medjool dates
- 1 cup unsulphured dried apricots
- Extra desiccated coconut, for rolling
Place first three ingredients in a food processor and process on high speed to form a workable paste. Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls and roll in the extra coconut. Refrigerate in an airtight container.
Chickpeas provide B-group vitamins, protein, calcium and fibre; they also protect cells from free radicals.
- 2 x 400g cans chickpeas, drained
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
- sea salt
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- few pinches paprika
Preheat oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with paper.
Use paper towel to pat and press chickpeas to remove moisture. Toss chickpeas with the oil and seasonings. Spread out on the tray. Roast for 25 minutes then remove tray, shake chickpeas to turn them, and return to oven for a further 20-25 minutes. Cool. Store in an airtight container.