While you continue to take precautions to keep your kids safe from COVID-19, you should know that we are in the midst of cold and flu season. Parents and kids can take simple, everyday steps to support their immune systems at this time of year.
The most effective way to strengthen immunity is through getting the flu vaccine. But maintaining a healthy lifestyle through eating nutritious foods, exercising consistently and getting enough sleep will also boost your body’s ability to fight off infection. Integrate the following healthy choices into your family’s routine to ensure that you are all prepared for the rest of the winter.
Keep your body functioning optimally with the following healthy eating tips.
We can strengthen our immune systems through eating nutritious foods.
“Nutrients that improve your immune system are vitamins B12, folate, A, C, D, copper, zinc, omega-6, omega-3 and the ratio of omega 6-to-3,” says Lindsey Carter, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of the Frederick County-based Back 2 Basics Nutrition. “Almonds, walnuts (omega-3), berries, dried fruits and citrus fruits are all great choices.”
If there’s one things kids love, it’s snacks. Use snack time as a chance to sneak in some more healthy foods.
“To improve immune health, snacks should be fruits and vegetables paired with protein,” Carter says. “Processed foods that we typically view as ‘snacks’ are nutrient-poor and provide little vitamins and minerals that improve our immune function.”
Spending time outside
Spending time outside offers multiple health benefits which will support your immune system.
“Vitamin D is critical for your immune system,” Carter says. “Sunlight exposure or vitamin D supplements are important to keeping your child’s vitamin D status up.”
It’s also important to get regular exercise, even when it’s cold outside.
“We often have enough days around here that you can bundle up and get some fresh air and exercise,” says Susan Chaitovitz, a physician at the Pediatric Center of Frederick.
This year has been a particularly challenging year for families adjusting to returning to work and school and dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our immune systems can be weakened from stress, so it’s important that parents and kids relax and get help when they need it.
“Stress and anxiety can alter how your immune system functions,” Chaitovitz says. “I know it’s easier said than done, but mindfulness, relaxation times and exercise are all things that help (our bodies deal with) stress, which helps your immune system.”
The role of parents
Parents play a crucial role in modeling healthy, immune-strengthening behavior for their children.
“Parents are the most important role models for their children,” Chaitovitz says. “When the family is eating a healthy meal that includes fruits, vegetables and less processed foods and exercising and doing active outings together, that’s the best way to be your child’s role model.”
A final word on COVID-19 …
Taking small steps to further strengthen your immune systems will help ensure that your family’s year will not be more disrupted than it already has been. If you or your child develops symptoms that resemble COVID-19, you will likely have to stay home from activities and get tested more often.
“We’re all familiar now with what happens when a kid has a COVID-like illness and they have to go home from school and get tested,” Chaitovitz says. “The less your child gets sick for any reason, the more they’re able to stay in school and not have to quarantine and get tested for COVID.”
Stay healthy and let’s get through this cold and flu season together.