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Immune Support for Kids: Back to School Edition

These suggestions were curated to help with immune support for kids as they get ready to head back to school during the COVID-19 outbreak.

For many parents, back to school is an exciting time. However, the 2020 fall back-to-school term has a much different vibe due to the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty that lies ahead.  

Parents worry about keeping their kids safe and healthy without risking their education. Taking action and boosting your child’s immune system will help give you peace of mind as we move forward into the unknown.  

Here are some scientifically-proven ways to boost immune support for kids for back to school this fall, whether it’s virtual or in the classroom.   

1. Vitamin D 

There has been some exciting new research about the possible protective effects of vitamin D against COVID-19.   

According to one study, vitamin D levels appear to play a role in COVID-19 death rates. The study found that there is a link between low vitamin D levels and hyperactive immune systems.  

The study also stated that vitamin D strengthens your innate immunity and prevents hyperactive immune responses, which often leads to the mysterious deaths of why some children die from COVID-19. 

Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, such as mackerel, tuna, and salmon. It’s also found in egg yolks, cheese, beef liver, and fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals. 

As kids can be picky eaters, many parents find that giving kids a daily vitamin D supplement is a good way to ensure they are getting proper amounts.  

Some supplements even come in liquid form and are tasteless, making it easy to add to foods or drop directly on the tongue.  

2. Zinc 

Zinc is a proven-immune booster that should be at the top of your list whenever flu season arrives. Research shows that zinc has a variety of direct and indirect anti-viral properties. 

According to one study, zinc helps inhibit infections by attaching to the virus and uncoating it. It also protects or stabilizes cell membranes and may contribute to the blocking of the virus so that it can’t invade healthy cells.  

Additionally, zinc has been shown to prevent viral replication of many viruses, including the influenza virus and the RNA-synthesizing activity of nidoviruses, which SARS-CoV-2 belongs to. 

Foods that are high in zinc include meat and poultry. If your child isn’t a big chicken eater, then you can sneak zinc into their diet with beats, nuts, whole grains, and fortified foods.  

Unfortunately, many multivitamins do not provide 100% RDV of zinc for immune support for kids. You can find many brands of zinc gummies on the market, but keep in mind that these tend to contain lots of sugar to make them taste good. Look for liquid zinc if possible that does not contain added sugars.  

3. Vitamin C 

Everyone knows that vitamin C can help boost immune health. But if you have a picky eater on your hands who doesn’t eat fruits and vegetables often, then it can be hard to keep your child’s vitamin C levels up. 

Research shows that giving high doses of vitamin C to patients hospitalized with COVID-19 related pneumonia may decrease the risk of death for this group of people.  

As a water-soluble vitamin, vitamin C is not stored in the body. This means that it constantly needs to be replenished in your child’s diet.  

There are many vitamin C supplements on the market which offer immune support for kids. If your child takes a multivitamin, check to see if they are getting 100% RDV of vitamin C. If not, then consider supplementing. 

You can buy vitamin C chews, liquid drops, or gummies, but again, these may contain sugar. Be sure to check labels and find a product with the lowest amount of sugar as possible.  

young girl walking with a backpack on

4. Get plenty of rest 

All parents know that bedtime is a daily struggle, but sticking to your guns this fall and enforcing strict nighttime routines could help keep your child from getting sick. 

Research shows that sleep has a strong regulatory influence on immune responses. One study found that people with shorter sleep durations have weaker immune systems than those who get more sleep. 

Your sleep patterns also affect how well you respond to a vaccine. Researchers discovered that when you are sleep deprived, there is a lower antibody response, which makes you more likely to get the virus that you are trying to protect against.   

Sleep is doubly important to growing kids as it is needed for proper growth and brain development. Try limiting electronics before bed as screen time has been shown to reduce melatonin production and make it harder to fall asleep, especially in children.  

5. Cut out sugar, refined carbs, and fast food 

This might be the hardest part for kids as many of them refuse to eat anything other than pizza, French fries, and ice cream, or something nutritionally similar.   

Keep in mind that boosting your immune system with supplements won’t do much for your child if the remainder of their diet is high in inflammatory foods that work against the immune response. Immune support for kids is a holistic process and food is an integral part of that.

Sugary foods and refined carbs contribute to inflammation that not only weakens the immune response, but also makes it harder for your body to absorb nutrients, such as the zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D that are needed to fight the flu.  

You may want to get creative during this time and offer healthy alternatives to your kid’s favorite indulgences. Try fruit smoothies in place of candy or soda, roasted vegetables in place of French fries (sweet potatoes and parsnips work well), and banana “nice cream” instead of ice cream.  

6. Probiotics   

Probiotics have been shown to regulate the functions of the mucosal and systemic immune cells, which can help protect against immune response related disorders, including viral infections. They have also been shown to potentiate vaccination responses.    

One study found that certain probiotic strains can help prevent viral and bacterial infections, including respiratory tract infections (RTIs). 

There are lots of probiotic supplements on the market for kids. They come in gummy, powder, and liquid form. Look for a raw probiotic in powder form without added sugars or artificial colors.  

You can also get more probiotics in your child’s diet by giving them no-sugar added yogurt or kefir to snack on. Yogurt makes a good base to mix powdered probiotics in.  

Looking for more articles focusing on immune support for kids (and adults)? Check out these Solaris Whole Health blog posts:

And if you’re looking for even more help with supporting your family’s immune system and overall health, find out why 1-on-1 Virtual Health Coaching with Stephanie Solaris could be the perfect option for you!