Back to school season can also be back to cold season. With so many children around each other, germs run wild. The next thing you know, your child is home from school sniffling, with a fever and vomiting. This makes your child miserable, the teacher unhappy, your boss disappointed and you frustrated.
This year, get your children ready to fight those germs that are ready to make them sick. When you’re stocking up on folders, pencils and erasers, don’t forget the vitamins.
Vitamins to Improve Immune System Functioning
You knew this one would be part of the list! Vitamin C taken before a cold can strengthen the immune system to ward off colds, and taken at the onset of one it can help decrease the length and severity of the illness.
Children under six years of age should have 250 mg per day and those over six should have 500 mg. Dr. Sears, a leader in children’s health, recommends taking vitamin C supplements throughout the day rather than all of it once a day.
Vitamin E is also important in immune functioning. It stimulates the production of killer cells, which attack germs and cancer cells. It also increases the production of B-cells, which are immune cells that produce antibodies that destroy bacteria.
While eating vegetable oils, nuts, and leafy green vegetables will give people enough of this vitamin, many children do not favor these foods. Children one to three years old need 9 IUs each day, ages four to eight need 10.5 IUs and nine to 13 year olds need 16.5 IUs, according to LiveStrong.
A study in 2009 found that vitamin D could protect individuals from the common cold and respiratory tract infections, especially those who have health concerns such as asthma and chronic lung conditions. In the winter, when most colds are running rampant among children and adults alike, vitamin D levels are also low because of the decreased time outdoors. If individuals do not make up for this loss with vitamin D enriched foods, deficiency occurs, which lowers the efficiency of the immune system. This is why it may be useful to supplement.
The Food and Nutrition Board recommends children and adolescents should have 600 IUs of vitamin D each day.
While not a vitamin, it is a mineral that's very important in immune function. Zinc increases white blood cell production. White blood cells release antibodies and attack infections. Some studies have shown that zinc supplements can lower the intensity and frequency of infections, however, too much of it can actually lower immune system functionality. According to Dr. Sears, zinc supplements may reduce the frequency of acute respiratory infections in children.
The Office of Dietary Supplements reports that children up to six months old should have 2 mg daily, children ages seven months to three years old should have 3 mg daily, children ages four to eight year olds should have 5 mg, and children ages nine and above should get 8 mg daily. These are dietary needs, so if a child eats enough zinc-enriched foods he may not need supplementation.
Dr. Sears reports on a study in which children who took half a teaspoon of flax oil each day had less severe respiratory infections and were less absent from school compared to those who didn’t receive the supplement. Omegas 3s in flax oil increase the activity of phagocytes, which are white blood cells that eliminate bacteria.
Dr. Sears recommends taking vitamin E with essential fatty acids, because together they can really boost the immune system.
Consult Your Doctor Before Supplementation
Before you decide to give your child a supplement, contact your doctor. Some vitamins can interact with medications and cause side effects. It’s also important that your child’s diet is reviewed by a doctor. Vitamin overdose is possible and can cause illness.
- 8 Foods that Boost Immunity, AskDrSears.com
- Kids' Vitamins To Boost The Immune System & Fighting Colds, LiveStrong.com
- Zinc, The Office of Dietary Supplements, The National Institute of Health, NIH.gov