The winter cold and flu season concerns parents every year, but the addition of the Coronavirus has increased the attention on immunity boosting tactics for children more than ever! Our pediatric team has compiled their recommendations to help your kids face the winter flu season with maximum immune support.
Sleep restores and heals the body. Getting quality, restful sleep is essential to your child’s health and well-being. Sleep directly impacts the immune system; without adequate sleep, optimal immune function is next to impossible.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following amount of sleep each night for healthy growth and development:
- Age 4 – 12 months: 12 – 16 hours (including naps)
- Age 1 – 2 years: 11 – 14 hours (including naps)
- Age 3 – 5 years: 10 – 13 hours (including naps)
- Age 6 – 12 years: 9 – 12 hours
- Age 13 – 18 years: 8 – 10 hours
It’s important to develop bedtime routines with your little ones. Establish a regular bedtime, limit screen time, and reduce end-of-day activities to ensure your child is getting enough restful sleep.
Be sure your child is fueling their body with the right nutrients that will help them fight off any immune invaders. Encourage your child to eat multiple servings of colorful fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C, vitamin A, and phytonutrients that supports the immune system. Leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower), peppers, sweet potatoes and squashes are excellent choices.
Avoid simple sugars, processed junk food, and sugary juices or sodas (even “diet” sodas). Eating simple sugar (like glucose, refined sugar, and fructose) has been shown to drastically interfere with the ability of white blood cells (the immune cells that attack and destroy invaders) to perform their job for up to 5 hours after ingestion. Replace sugary snacks with fruits that are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, like oranges and blueberries.
** Note: many over-the-counter cough syrups, cough drops, and flu remedies contain sugar. Be mindful of what you are giving your child when their immune system is already compromised.
Keep Their Hands Clean
Keeping your child’s hands clean and keeping germs away from their face is an important immunity defense tactic, especially in the time of COVID. Teach your child to:
- Wash their hands frequently.
- Use alcohol based hands cleansers frequently (have them all over the house and at school).
- Cough into their elbow.
- Avoid touching their face with their hands.
If your child becomes sick, there are things you can do other than the obvious rest, healthy foods, and fluids. For teens, medicines like Theraflu or Dayquil/Nyquil can help them feel better, but these are not safe for kids younger than teens. Here are a few supplements to stock up on and get started at the first onset of the sniffles:
1. Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3 increases our body’s production of cathelicidin, an antimicrobial compound, to help fight viral and bacterial infections.
It is always best to get your child’s vitamin D levels checked first before supplementing. Recommended daily dosages:
- 1 year old 1,000 IU
- 2 years old 2,000 IU
- 3 years old 3,000 IU
- 4 years old 4,000 IU
- 4 years – teens 5,000 IU
Zinc is a mineral that enhances the biochemical actions of vitamin D, aids in the absorption of vitamin A, helps boost immune defenses, has anti-inflammatory effects, and is an antioxidant.
Recommended daily dosages:
- Kids 10mg (half a tablet)
- Teens 12mg (1 tablet)
Take with food if not tolerating.
3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that benefits the immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells and supporting the energy producing capacity of mitochondria.
Recommended daily dosage:
- 100mg / every 2 pounds body weight, divided twice a day
4. Vitamin A
Vitamin A assists immune function by improving white blood cells, natural killers cells, macrophages, and T and B lymphocytes. It has anti-inflammatory effects and iis necessary in the body for detoxification.
Recommended daily dosage:
- 1 year old 1,000 U
- 2 years old 2,000 U
- 3 years old 3,000 U
- 4 years old 4,000 U
- 5 years old 5,000 U
- 6 year old 6,000 U
- 7 years old 7,000 U
- 8 years old 8,000 U
- 9 years old 9,000 U
- >10 years 10,000U twice daily
Glutathione is a tripeptide that protects cells from damage by oxidation and free radicals. It helps regulate the immune system by stimulating production of interleukin 1 and 2, and helps recycle other antioxidants (like vitamins C and E).
Other than it’s role in the sleep-wake cycle, melatonin has other functions in the body, such as acting as antioxidant, boosting the immune system, and helping to balance the stress response.
If your child becomes sick, properly managing their fever is important. Don’t be afraid of fever! Fever stimulates your child’s immune function to ramp up and fight the invader.
Using a warm bath is a great way to manage a fever without suppressing the immune function. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen both suppress immunity and may make symptoms last longer. Use them only if fever is over 103°F and not responding to a warm bath.
Avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. Antibiotics are sometimes a lifesaver (literally), but antibiotics not only wipe out pathogenic bacteria, but deplete the beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome, leading to gut imbalances with serious consequences.
The CDC estimates that at least 30% of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary. If a doctor prescribes your child antibiotics, don’t just accept the prescription without asking questions: How necessary are these antibiotics? How likely is it that your child’s natural immunity will take care of the problem? Are there more natural anti-bacterial options?
When To Bring Your Child Into the Doctor
It can be hard to determine when to seek out medical attention for a sick child. Here is a partial list of things to keep an eye on. Bring your child into the clinic is any of these are present:
1. If your child’s breathing rate is elevated, especially when not feverish, this could indicate pneumonia. Using a second hand watch, count your child’s breathing rate. If it is over 50 breaths per minute, we need to check for pneumonia.
** Note: Fever will elevate respiratory rate, so count breaths when their fever is down.
2. If your child is urinating less than once a day and you cannot get fluids down, they may be dehydrated and be in need of an IV.
3. If your child’s fever is over 105°F and not coming down, this may indicate a secondary bacteremia (bacteria in the blood).
4. Most kids are lethargic when they are feverish, but when there is lethargy without fever, it may be indicative of something else. Lethargy may be as benign as muscle aches, but it could be more serious, like meningitis.
** Note: If your child can perk up even for half an hour, this is NOT meningitis. Meningitis gets progressively and rapidly gets worse. There are NO “perk-up” episodes.
Functional Medicine of Idaho is here to partner with you to keep your child healthy. If you would like to work with our pediatric team, click below to start the new patient process.
- Dr. Mario Brus, MD, Functional Pediatrician at Functional Medicine of Idaho
- AAP endorses new recommendations on sleep times
- Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis
- CDC: 1 in 3 antibiotic prescriptions unnecessary
- Pamela Wartian Smith, MD, MPH: What You Must Know About Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs And So Much More