Building a healthy immune system
Your toddler’s immune system is slowly developing, and will get stronger and stronger over time. Exposure to some foreign bacteria and viruses from birth plays an important role in strengthening your toddler’s immune system to fight future invaders. With the average toddler fighting five to eight colds a year, or more if they are exposed to other children at day care or school, the immune system gets plenty of practice in these early years!
How to strengthen your toddler’s immune system
The digestive system is responsible for a large percentage of your toddler’s immune function – in fact up to 80% of the body’s immune cells are found here. Therefore, it’s very important to keep the digestive system functioning well.
Here are some tips to help support your toddler’s immune system:
- Ensure your toddler is getting a healthy diet consisting of a variety of fresh foods. Include a colourful variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as essential fats and oils from fish, eggs and seeds. Nutrients that are particularly important include:
- Vitamin C: Green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, kiwi fruit and strawberries are all great sources of vitamin C;
- Red meat in particular is high in iron, but also include other sources such as fish, chicken and eggs;
- Vitamin B6: Whole grain cereals and legumes, green and leafy vegetables, fish and shellfish, meat and poultry, nuts and liver are all great sources;
- Your toddler’s body regenerates, renews and repairs itself while sleeping so make sure your toddler has good sleeping habits and patterns.
Although it is important to teach your child good hygiene practices, the immune system does need some stimulation in order to work effectively so don’t panic if you are out and about where germs may be lurking! It is actually ok for your child to get the odd cold and have a bit of dirt on their hands. It is strengthening their immune system for future invaders (that will come).