Immunity refers to the ability of your immune system to fight against various infections and prevent illnesses. Your immune system is a wide network of cells and tissues that are always on the lookout for invaders (foreign substances such as microbes that include bacteria, viruses, or parasites) and are ready to attack (launch an immune response) when they find one. 

The primary organs of the immune system include the bone marrow and the thymus. The bone marrow produces your new blood cells (including the one that provides immunity) and the thymus produces the hormone ‘thymosin’, which in turn aids in the production of immunity cells (primarily T-cells and B-cells).

Basic Functioning of Your Immune System

When your white blood cells (WBCs), also called leukocytes, find a target, they multiply and send signals to other cells to do so. There are two main types of leukocytes - Phagocytes and Lymphocytes.

The phagocytes absorb pathogens and break them down, effectively eating them. The lymphocytes help the body to remember previous invaders (targets) and recognize them if they come back to attack again, by releasing antibodies. The B-lymphocytes produce antibodies and the T- lymphocytes destroy compromised cells in the body.

Thus, when your body is attacked by the same invader again, your immune system generates the same immune response that it did the first time when your body was attacked.

Immunity In Children

As a parent, you must be trying very hard to keep your children away from germs and bacteria that they are being exposed to, on a daily basis. Children fall sick or fall ill quite often, due to their low immunity. In children, immunity gets stronger as they grow up. 

Like in adults, children also have two types of immunity: innate immunity (present by birth) and adaptive immunity (developed when the body is exposed to microbes). Innate immunity is a child's response to foreign body invasion. The acquired or adaptive immunity in children develops from B-lymphocytes, after exposure of the body to certain invaders. 

Children are more at risk of developing cold, flu, diarrhea, ear infections, and food allergies when compared to adults. Following a healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition is enough to boost your child’s immunity naturally.

5 Tips to Boost Your Child’s Immunity at Home

1. Feed your child with a balanced diet. A balanced diet is a diet that contains different kinds of foods that are rich in carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients, in adequate quantities. A balanced diet regulates the immune system and prepares the body to fight infections. 

Some dietary guidelines to remember: 

  • Prefer fresh foods over frozen or canned food. 

  • Be regular with their meals (proper timing of their breakfast, lunch, and diner).  

  • Include vegetables and fresh fruits. Fruits and vegetables like carrots, beans, spinach, strawberries, and oranges contain essential nutrients that help to boost immunity. Give your kids at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

2. Make sure they stay hydrated. Drinking enough water will keep them away from illnesses. 

  • Staying hydrated helps in the detoxification of the body. Keep reminding them to have sips of water or juices frequently. 
  • Drinking water helps in removing toxins from the body and also prevents the buildup of toxins that might have a negative impact on your child’s immune system.

3. Probiotics for healthy growth and strong immunity. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that are good for your child’s digestive system. They are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria that keep the digestive system happy and in turn, increase or improve immunity.

  • Probiotics will help your children to grow properly.

  • Add buttermilk, yogurt, fermented foods, cheese, etc., to your child’s daily diet.

4. Sound sleep is essential for better immunity. Sound sleep is known to increase the production of T-cells which play an important role in your child’s immunity. The immune system also releases proteins called cytokines when your child is asleep, which helps regulate innate immune responses. 

To help your child sleep better:

  • Set a bedtime schedule. Encourage your child to sleep and wake up at the same time daily.

  • Check if any noise or light is causing any disturbance, in your child's room.

  • Keep the bedsheets, pillows, and blankets washed and cleaned, to prevent infections.

Sleep deprivation can lead to a reduction of the killer cells (a type of lymphocytes or WBCs) in your child, which are essential to fight against infections. 

5. Hygiene practices to improve immunity. Germs can invade children more easily and cause various illnesses. 

  • Make sure your child washes his/her hands properly and at regular intervals. To make it a good habit, provide your child with scented soaps or colored towels. 

  • Change/replace your child’s toothbrush, once every 3 to 4 months. Harmful bacteria that thrive on toothbrushes will not only cause dental problems but also serve as a source of various pathogens, that can decrease your child’s immunity. 

  • Teach your child the importance of wearing a mask and how to cover his/her mouth while sneezing and coughing. Practicing this hygiene is the best way to stop the spread of viruses or bacterias. 

  • Teach your child how to keep a safe distance from someone who has a cold or a cough.

  • Keep your house clean and involve your child as well in the cleaning process. You can use regular disinfectants to kill the germs and bacteria, in and around the house. 

With a few simple steps as told above, you can play a very important role in building up your child’s immune system. Following a proper diet, sleep and hygiene daily is the way forward for being healthy. Consult your peadiatrician to know more.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.