With the deadly Lassa and Coronaviruses currently in the country, there is need to ensure that our children’s immune system are in good shape. For children; their immune systems are just like an antivirus warning message; it’s needs an update every so often, says Ifeyinwa Omesiete, a Pediatric nutrition consultant based in Lagos.
Mostly because children are explorers and are more susceptible to many illnesses as their immune system isn’t strong enough to fight a lot of infections. Between the ages of zero to six years, the average child would have had over 20 different cold/viral infection cases (this is excluding bacterial infections). This number may seem alarming but it’s expected and that is why building their immune system needs to be at the top of every parents to-do list.
According to Omesiete, there are three major but simple ways to boost the immunity of any child. They may seem ordinary but with consistency; they have proven to be very effective.
Water Intake: From the first day of life, every child is exposed to fluids; be it breast milk or formula. The reason is mainly because the body is made up of at least 70 per cent of water, you should also ensure proper circulation of blood and nutrients; the body’s water content needs to be maintained. Between six months to a year, the minimum water intake should be 250-500ml daily. Between one to two years, every child should consume at least 750ml of water. Ages two to four years, at least a liter of water, and from four years upwards, at least two liters of water. Low water intake can decrease oxygen flow throughout the body and it also decreases the effective removal of toxins from the body which overtime can weaken the immune system. One of the easiest ways to get any child to drink water is by setting the example. So, as a parent, drink more water in the presence of your children and keep drinking water accessible and in plain sight.
Spirulina: Spirulina is a natural blue green algae (cyanbacteria) that is an incredible source of absorbable nutrients. When harvested correctly from non-contaminated ponds and bodies of water, it is one of the most potent nutrient sources available. Taking about half a teaspoon spirulina daily is the equivalent of 1 egg or ½ a banana or 300ml of Milk. Spirulina is a complete protein and an excellent source of Vit A, B12, B2, B3, Iron, Zinc and Omega 6 fatty acids. It provides the body with antioxidants, which are key in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Simply put, what you cannot get your child to eat in their diet, spirulina will do the trick.
Fruits and vegetables: This is almost cliché, but not to be taken for granted. A lot of health professionals educate parents about the importance of fruits and vegetables in a child’s diet but let’s look at this from a nutritionist’s standpoint. A daily serving of a variety of fruits and vegetables provides fiber for proper digestion of foods, phytonutrients like beta-carotene which turn into Vit A in the body, and Minerals like Iron which increase the absorption of Vit C in the body to fight infections.
A missed serving causes a decline in the nutrients listed above which when they are depleted begin to deplete other nutrients like Zinc, potassium, calcium and so on. That’s why when a child who lacks these nutrients is exposed to a virus or bacteria; quickly gets infected and doesn’t have strong immune cells to fight. For children who do not like vegetables; there can be blended or juiced with fruits. They can also be made into popsicles or even baked. The trick is to get creative with the approach of serving them.
In conclusion, Omesiete said that every child deserves a fighting chance against infections and with these three ways, every parent is sure of kicking their child’s immune system up a notch.