Most parents of children in childcare are all too familiar with the dreaded childcare sickness that often comes with the territory of sending their children to a care service. Luckily, there are a few simple strategies you can implement at home to help boost your kid’s immune system and avoid the dreaded childcare illness.
Offer them a healthy diet
Although it can be difficult to encourage fussy eaters to follow a healthy, balanced diet, it’s worth giving your child the opportunity to try different foods that can help to strengthen their immune system. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy products provides essential vitamins and minerals necessary for a strong immune system.
In particular, it’s important to make sure your child gets plenty of vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, strawberries, and broccoli) and Vitamin D (from sources like fortified dairy products and sunlight) to help boost their immunity.
While we’re on the topic of diet, it can also help to promote a healthy gut microbiome by including probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and fermented foods in your child's diet.
Lastly, try to limit their consumption of sugary and processed foods as they can weaken the immune system.
Keep them hydrated
While a balanced diet can do wonders for your child’s immune system, it's also important to encourage your child to drink plenty of water throughout the day so they stay properly hydrated. Hydration is essential for the immune system to function effectively. Plus, it can help to flush toxins from the body and aid in recovery after a bout of illness.
Beyond water, herbal teas, like chamomile or ginger, are also a great option for keeping your child well-hydrated. From 1 onwards, you can even give them electrolyte solutions to help replace fluids and electrolytes that are often lost when they’re sick.
Teach them healthy hygiene practices
It’s often a good idea to start teaching your children about healthy hygiene practices as early as possible. Not only will this help them to stay clean at childcare and avoid any potential bugs, increases the likelihood that these habits will be carried into adulthood.
There’s no denying that frequent handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent illnesses, so show your child proper handwashing techniques to prevent the spread of germs. While you’re at it, you can also teach your child to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs.
It’s also a good idea to regularly clean and disinfect toys, surfaces and common areas around your home. Especially if someone in the house is recovering from a sickness.
Keep them active
Active play and regular exercise are great for boosting your child's immune system and improving overall health. Encourage regular physical activity by staying active as a family. From going to the park, riding bikes, dancing or even planning a scavenger hunt, you can have fun and get the blood flowing at the same time. Plus, when you exercise together as a family, you’re able to role model this type of behavior to your little ones, which can set them up for a lifetime of good habits. But exercise isn’t just good for boosting immunity, it can also help to improve mood, burn off energy and it provides the perfect opportunity for your child to practice physical and social skills.
Make sure they’re getting good quality sleep
Good quality sleep provides a number of benefits for growing bodies. Healthy sleep aids in physical growth, brain development, emotional wellbeing and stress reduction. Plus, a consistent sleep schedule helps the body to recover and recharge after a big day, which is crucial for a healthy immune system.
Part of creating healthy sleep habits involves encouraging consistent bedtime and wake-up times, a calming bedtime routine and a sleep-conducive environment, like a dark, quiet room. Each of these factors can contribute to better sleep for kids.
The amount of sleep needed varies by age, with younger children needing more sleep than adolescents. As a rough guide, the American Sleep Foundation recommends the following sleep durations:
Recommended sleep duration
Duration that may be appropriate
Duration that is not recommended
|Newborn (0 - 3 months)||14 to 17 hours||11 to 13 or 18 to 19 hours||Less than 11 hours or more than 20 hours|
|Infant (4 - 11 months)||12 to 15 hours||10 to 11 or 16 to 18 hours||Less than 10 hours or more than 19 hours|
|Toddler (1 – 2 years)||11 to 14 hours||9 to 10 or 15 to 16 hours||Less than nine hours or more than 17 hours|
|Preschooler (3 – 5 years)||10 to 13 hours||8 to 9 or 14 hours||Less than eight hours or more than 15 hours|
|School-aged child (6 - 13 years)||9 to 11 hours||7 to 8 or 12 hours||Less than seven hours or more than 13 hours|
Stay on top of vaccinations
There’s a reason vaccinations are mandatory in childcare settings. Vaccinations help to protect your child and those around them from various infectious diseases, so it’s a good idea to keep your child up to date with their recommended vaccinations.
If your child is unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons, it’s important to limit their exposure to people who are sick to try and reduce the risk of infection.
Plus, if you’re hoping to receive the Family Tax Benefit (FTB) or the Child Care Subsidy (CCS), your child must meet certain immunisation requirements as part of the eligibility criteria.
Encourage calm time
Stress often plays a key role in weakening your child’s immune system and making them more susceptible to illnesses and infections. Luckily, there are a number of strategies you can implement to help reduce stress in children, including:
- Creating a supportive and nurturing environment,
- Promoting relaxation techniques,
- Encouraging physical activity and play,
- Maintaining a consistent routine, and
- Providing opportunities for open communication.
Reducing stress and its impact on your child's immune system can lead to improved overall health and wellbeing. So, if you notice that your little one seems a little frazzled or wound up, it can be worth helping them to decompress. Just make sure that you’re using age-appropriate stress-reduction techniques, such as play, relaxation and mindfulness exercises.
Keep on top of their health with regular checkups
Be sure to schedule regular check-ups with your child’s doctor and other health professionals to monitor their health and address any medical concerns early. It’s usually much easier to address potential health concerns when they’re caught early on rather than letting it progressively get worse.
Unfortunately, getting sick at childcare is a right of passage. So while you can take steps to boost your child’s immunity, it’s often difficult to avoid sickness altogether. If you think your little one could be coming down with something, it’s usually best to keep them home to avoid spreading the germs at childcare. And if you’re worried about their condition at any stage, don’t hesitate to take them to the doctor or hospital. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.