5 ways to boost your child's immunity while in care

Published on Wednesday, 19 June 2019
Last updated on Monday, 30 December 2019

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In group care, children have a chance to share fun moments and educational activities, however, these positive experiences aren't the only things being passed around. It's common for germs and illness to spread between children as they share the same toy boxes, breathing spaces and, yes, bugs.

Children have a lower resistance to germs than adults, so they can be more susceptible to illness, and as temperatures cool over winter, viruses often stick around for longer.

This means it's likely your child will come down with something at one point or another, but the good news is that there are ways to boost a child's immune system to help them fight off those dreaded child care lurgies.

What is the immune system?

The immune system consists of a network of cells, tissues, and organs, including the skin, mucous membranes, white blood cells, lymphatic system, thymus gland, and spleen, that fight against bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances.

It works hard to protect the body from, and get rid of, infection. Here’s how you can support your child’s immune system as it grapples with all those group care germs:

1. Plenty of sleep

It's important that children get enough sleep, as a guide, toddlers need 11 to 14 hours a day and preschoolers need 10 to 13 hours, and one of the reasons for this, is that sleep supports their body systems.

Conversely, sleep deprivation increases a hormone called cortisol, which suppresses immune function, so make sure your little one wakes up well-rested and ready for child care.

2. Healthy diet

Nutritious food powers your child through the day and supports healthy growth and development. It's thought that sugar suppresses the immune system, while healthy foods such as fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, eggs, and poultry give it a boost. Encourage your youngster to eat a varied diet that's full of long-lasting energy and nutrients, and hydrate them with plenty of water too.

3. Stay active

Regular exercise helps the lymphatic system and makes the body feel happy and healthy, so it's important that children are physically active both at home and at child care. This means running, jumping, dancing, hiding, seeking, scavenger-hunting, and all those fun things that little bodies like to do.

4. Relaxation time

Stress can impact a person's immunity, so as well as keeping them active, busy, and engaged, make sure to provide ample time to relax their minds and bodies, especially after a big day at child care.

Gentle play is a great way to unwind, and cuddles are calming too.

5. Get them vaccinated

Vaccines introduce a dead or weakened version of a bacteria or virus into your child’s body. The immune system 'remembers' attacks on it, so this subdued attack means that your body can recognise and respond quickly to any future exposure to that type of bacteria or virus.

In Australia, there is a 'no jab, no pay’ policy attached to the New Child Care Package, so as well as helping your child’s immune system, vaccinations also help your wallet. You can read more about child care and vaccination here, and Queensland's killer flu season reminds us why a flu vaccine is important for under fives.

The Queensland Government says, 'Children under five have some of the highest rates of the flu and associated complications causing the most hospital admissions of all other vaccine preventable diseases in children of this age.'

What happens if your child seems out of sorts?

Even by taking steps to boost their immune system, winter is a peak time for illness. If your little one is looking off-colour, then it's important that you make the right decision about whether to send them to child care or keep them home.

Our article on Keeping Your Child Healthy in Child Care is full of helpful advice, and even if it's inconvenient to keep your child home, make a decision that's best for them and for their peers.

The Conversation

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