Practical Ways to Teach Your Children to Support their Immune System

If your house was like mine, with three small children in elementary school at one time, you can understand the need to get them to assist you in avoiding getting sick and missing important school lessons.

About the beginning of March, in New England, avoiding exposure to illness is pretty much impossible. But we parents do try!

And as much as I believe in the power of prayer, it is not enough. It takes active training. Of course, that means leading by example and learning to practice what you teach. Every family is on the front lines in the battle against germs, so fall in because your…

Basic Training Starts Now!

The trick is to have your battle plan in place before you enter the flu season. Parents (and everyone else) need to understand most germs are contacted thru the hands first, and then make their way into your body to exploit your immune system weakness.

So here are four ideas to make it harder for illness to breakdown the regularly efficient family operation, and avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor, or consumption of cold & flu medicines that typically only reduce symptoms.

Yes, I know these ideas seem like common sense, but they bear repeating because we tend to forget the effectiveness of the basics.

Washing Your Hands

Simple enough, but not practiced nearly enough. Parents need to drill this frontline defense into everyone’s routine. It’s not just before you eat, it should be after we touch most anything that is public property. Yes, germs are everywhere and it almost impossible to avoid them.

Germs can get into the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth and make us sick, if we have a suppressed immune system. While most of us wash our hands at the normally expected moments (i.e., the bathroom), we tend to forget to do it at times when it doesn’t come as naturally.  To support optimal health, we should wash our hands after:

  • touching objects (e.g., cell phones, door handles)
  • shaking hands
  • caring for someone ill
  • touching an animal
  • sneezing or coughing

Hands up…what do we need to do more often? That’s right…wash hands!

The next most important habit to train on, promote, and implement…is Sleep or more specifically…

Get Your Rest

Maintaining a schedule that includes adequate rest, or typically in the form of a good nights sleep may seem underrated, when in fact, it’s not uncommon for many people to brag about functioning without sleep. BTW, the week of March 10th is “Sleep Awareness Week” and here is a good post discussing the quantity and quality of sleep in a bit more detail.

For this discussion, let me emphasize the fact that lack of sleep is more detrimental than to maintaining your health than most people understand. Our bodies repair and restore during our nightly sleep period. Pretty cool …your immune system gets recharged at night, and you don’t have to do anything but establish a consistent pattern or practice in preparing to go to bed, actually sleeping long enough to let your body do its thing and help you remain in good health. Teach this early, establish good habits so your children understand they get to help their body by giving it a rest.

So, how important sleep? Consider what the experts at Mayo Clinic say, “Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.

How much Sleep

The recommended amount of sleep varies for different age group, per the experts.

  • For adults ages 18–64, it’s 7-9 hours.  
  • For children ages 1-17, the average is 10 hours, plus naps for little ones.

As simple as this idea sounds a good night’s sleep depends on a few key factors. Diet (what and when you eat), and the actual physical surroundings (bedroom planing is important). Like the lights, noise. temperature and comfort which can typically be adjusted to optimize the quality of your rest period.

Got it!

You may not be able to get the rest you need, if at first you have not been eating right. For sure, avoid eating any close to your bedtime. It will sabotage even the best nighttime ritual. Eating right will not only help your sleep well, it also helps strength your unhealthy immune system. Avoid  immunity deficiency when you….

Feed with Micronutrients

Most parents try to give their families a balanced diet that is “good for your health” but following through is typically another story. No judgement here. If I said it was easy to avoid an unbalanced diet, usually heavier with nutrient-poor carbohydrates, I would be lying to you. Like most of us, it took me a long time to to add enough fruits, vegetables and berries into my diet. The simple truth is we need the benefits of key micronutrients to support our immune function. Micronutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, B vitamins, and zinc to name a few. Try Incorporating more of the foods below into your families regular diet to get the boost of immunity:

  • sweet potato, pumpkin (vitamin A)
  • wild salmon, trout (vitamin D)
  • beans, eggs, dark leafy greens (B vitamins)
  • wheat germ, wild rice, tempeh, lentils (zinc)
Boost your Defense with Key Supplements

Organic Sambucol, an extract of black elderberry, has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of the flu. As last line of defense when the flu does hit, my family is typically spared because we regularly include elderberry  in our daily diet, plus extra elderberry, found at your local natural foods store, or online at Amazon, if you click the image to the right. The investment cost is reasonable, far better than missing work or school. If interests you can see Where I get daily immune boosting whole food berry blend…that comes in capsules and chewables. I can tell you that Since eating these daily I and my family have experience significantly lower rate of colds and flu.

Sources and Inspiration

Show Me the Science—Why Your Hands?“, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lack of Sleep—Can It Make You Sick?”, Mayo Clinic.
The Effect of Sambucocl”“, National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Disclaimer: In fact, before starting any exercise, diet or wellness program, be sure you consult your doctor and be sure to learn the proper techniques for that diet before starting a new program. That would defeat the whole purpose of the activity and your injury may even increase your health insurance cost not reduce them. This post is intended to be for educational purposes only.