5 Back to School Immune Boosting Tips for Kids

By Dr. Megan Golani

It's that time of the year and school is back in session. With going back to school comes colds, coughs, fevers, and sore throats, just to name a few. Use these tips now to help prevent any symptoms from starting and to reduce the duration of your child's illness (they work great for adults too).

1. Probiotics- not just for digestion! They can actually support our overall immune system. Probiotics fortify the gut's immune system called GALT (Gut-associated lymphoid tissue). That's right we have an immune system in our gut! Probiotics bolster this immune system because our gut needs the right type of probiotics to colonize and thus defend and protect our bodies against invading pathogens- this helps to prevent colds and can even reducing the use of antibiotics.

I like Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Children's Chewable (they make an infant product as well; Ther-Biotic for Infants). Kids like the taste and you can feel comfortable giving it to them, as there is no sugar added.

2. Elderberry - a gentle herb that kids actually like! It is also known by its Latin name, Sambuscus spp and falls into a category of herbs called antivirals. It is packed full of antioxidants, vitamin A & C, and minerals. It is basically an immune-boosting superhero; working wonders on strengthening the immune system and preventing and shortening illnesses.

I like the Elderberry Syrup by Wise Women Herbals for its versatility. It is delicious off the spoon, can be added to your child's favorite tea (ginger lemon or peppermint tea is my favorites), or be made into a natural "soda" by adding carbonated water, lemon, and sweetener. Another great product that contains elderberry is Vital Nutrients Vital Kids Berry Well Immune Support. This product comes in a convenient powder that can easily be mixed into drinks and soft foods. What's great about this product is that it tastes great and contains other immune supporting herbs to make sure that your kids are getting all of the support they need. I also like making popsicles for a sore throat by blending it with berries and coconut water (even cooled tea) then freezing.

3. Omega 3 Fish Oil - Daily fish oil is not only good for developing brains and eyes but is important for the immune system as well.

I find that children like Nordic Naturals fish oils a lot. They are tested to ensure that they are free of heavy metals, so parents can feel comfortable with supplementing. I recommend either the Arctic Cod Liver Oil (strawberry flavor taste best) or the children soft gels that are easy to swallow or chew like ProOmega Junior. I do not recommend the gummies as they have too much sugar and not enough omega 3's, but they might be the best option for our pickiest children.

4. Vitamin D3 - As the sun sets earlier and earlier and the Portland rainy season starts, we have less opportunity to make vitamin D from the sun. Supplementing with vitamin D is now recommended for everyone in the Northwest. It is not only good for strong bones and preventing future diseases, but it will even help to fend of winter viruses. Start taking this in the fall to support the immune system.
I am partial to the vitamin D that comes in liquid form as it is super convenient for kids of all ages. My favorite is Biotics Research Bio-D-Mulsion. I recommend 400 IU per day for babies <1 year old (take all year long, especially if your child is exclusively breastfeeding); for children 1-10 years old, I recommend 1000 IU per day; and for older children (>10 years old), I recommend 2,000 IU per day.

5. Sleep - regular sleep is key to keeping a healthy immune system. Try to maintain regular bedtimes hours, even on the weekends, and limit screen time at night. Also make sure your kiddos get the recommended 8+ hours of sleep a night.

Warming Socks Treatment

If your child is already showing signs of getting sick try this home remedy; it is a tired and true remedy that works wonders with children and can even help reduce a fever without medication.

  • Soak feet in hot water for 5-10 minutes. For babies, you can surround tiny feet in a warm washcloth for a few minutes.
  • Next, soak two light cotton socks in cold water and wring them out (they should not be dripping wet).
  • Apply cold, wet socks to warmed feet and cover socks in plastic wrap (optional).
  • Add wool or thicker socks (even onesies with feet will work) over (wrapped) wet cotton socks.
  • Let your child sleep with these warming socks overnight. Their immune system will be stimulated and this will help to decrease fever, naturally! The socks will even be dry as the immune system works.

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