How to boost children’s Immune systems against viruses

Since March we have focused on enhancing our children´s  Immune systems and defences, maintaining adequate levels of vitamins A, B, C and D, iron, copper, selenium, and more. The challenge continues when going back to school and the arrival of the coldest months of the year: how do we improve immunity in children during the pandemic?

Prevention + protection 

The increasing incidence of COVID-19 suggests that a second wave of the coronavirus could coincide with the return to school. The SARS-COV-2 virus thus joins the cold, flu and other respiratory viruses that return each September.

How does the new coronavirus affect children’s immune systems?

According to the latest study by the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital in Barcelona, the infection rate in children is up to six times lower than that of the general population, and they have milder symptoms than older people.

However, this study also found that children are infected in the same way as adults if they are exposed to the source of infection. The virus is not particularly virulent among children, but prevention and protection measures are essential to minimise infection. In addition, boosting children’s immune systems will help them against any infections by other viruses and bacteria.

07/09/2020
Author: CATALINA FERNÁNDEZ DE ANA PORTELA
Edition: health@hifasdaterra.co.uk

Children’s immune systems

Up to 6 years of age, immunity has a high degree of unpredictability. Possible causes could include the immaturity of the defences and detoxification systems and potentially more pronounced nutritional deficits in the presence of viruses, bacteria, or other pathogens.

A child is not a “small adult”

Dr. Begara, an integrative paediatrician, explains that during the first years of life, “defences are very poor and have poor regulation.” He adds that the epithelial barriers are not yet formed; the amount of mucus generated is insufficient, and the cilia, responsible for extracting microbes from the airways, do not move as in adulthood. An immature microbiota and low levels of hydrochloric acid complete the characteristics described by the paediatrician, which highlight that they are not “small adults” and that their response to disease is different.

How to promote the immune response: nutrients and functional compounds

Biological balance requires maintenance of adequate levels of protection and immunity. How? Remember that the body has an immunological memory, so it learns from all attacks to fight back when they reappear.

To avoid the deterioration of the immune system, health professionals recommend avoiding the unnecessary use of antibiotics, which has been linked to an increase in autoimmune diseases.

Lack of sleep, or vitamin D, as well as a diet lacking in prebiotics and probiotics, may limit physical resilience, cognitive development, and affect the diversity of the intestinal microbiota. Lack of sleep, or vitamin D, as well as a diet lacking in prebiotics and probiotics, may limit physical resilience, cognitive development, and affect the diversity of the intestinal microbiota.

Immunomodulators

An immunomodulator is a substance capable of modifying the body’s immune response. According to the dictionary of the University of Navarra Clinic (CUN), these “increase or decrease the ability to produce antibodies” , which means they can support the body’s defence mechanisms in various situations.

The beta-glucans present in some foods like cereals such as oats, and mushrooms such as reishi, have been shown to be capable of stimulating immune cells such as B and T lymphocytes, and NK (natural killer) cells, which are responsible for regulating the immune response.

Prebiotics and probiotics to balance the microbiota

The risk of severe infection by Covid-19 is more common in cases of hypertension, diabetes and obesity. These risk factors have not only been linked to poor nutritional habits, but also have links to imbalances in the gut microbiota.

Certain studies find a causal relationship between intestinal dysbiosis, diabetes and obesity.

In addition, it’s hypothesised that the cytokine storm present in severe COVID cases, which causes widespread inflammation and tissue damage, may be related to the response that begins in the intestinal tract.

Fighting off the “enemy”

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough (not sneezing), the feeling of suffocation, loss of taste and smell,  as well as other symptoms associated with the flu such as weakness, muscle aches, headache. The prevalence of the flu in seasonal epidemics further complicates the detection of coronavirus infection.

A study recently published in, The Journal of Rhinology, has cleared up some differences between colds, the flu and Covid19:

  • Coronavirus patients are unable to detect bitter or sweet tastes.
  • Coronavirus patients lose their sense of smell but do not usually have a runny or stuffy nose.

In summary…

Going back to school with the current Covid situation implies a biological change for the little ones. Maintaining a proper diet that guarantees adequate nutritional levels as well as promoting healthy lifestyle habits can help improve the little ones’ immunity; all this without forgetting the prevention and protection measures recommended by the health authorities.

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