It’s no secret that children and adults are different in many ways. Children’s brains, bodies and personalities are constantly developing and growing. They tend to be more hyperactive and impulsive than most adults. Even their immune systems are different. According to research, children’s immune systems are not as good at fighting off illnesses as the average adult’s immune system. That’s why little Dave always seems to be sick in the winter, even though his parents tend to get milder and more fleeting versions of his same illnesses.These are all great ways to help prep your immune system to fight off illnesses. Additional options include quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol, and focusing on being positive.
Immune System DevelopmentTo understand why children seem to succumb to illnesses more often and with longer durations, you first need to understand immune system development. Here’s how a child’s immunity develops over time.
- Infants: Babies are exposed to antibodies, fats, enzymes and proteins through their mother’s breast milk. As a result, babies who are breastfed typically succumb to fewer infections during their first year than babies who are given baby formula. Breast milk gives newborn immune systems an important boost.
- Toddlers and Young Children: When your growing toddler first goes to preschool, his or her chance of getting viruses and colds increases. This is because exposure to more people outside of the home is bound to increase exposure to illnesses. However, there are studies showing that this exposure and subsequent illnesses actually help to improve your child’s immune system and strengthen it against future illnesses. By the time your child is around 7 or 8 years old, the immune system has fully developed.
- Adults: The immune systems of adults are no longer under development. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your immune system response and should forget about making healthy changes. The foods you eat and the lifestyle habits you adopt can have a major impact on how your body responds to exposure to viruses and bacteria.
How To Build a Strong Immune System (Infants, Toddlers & Youth)Building a strong immune system begins in infancy. Since babies are completely dependent on their parents, it’s up to you to make sure your little one gets a good, healthy start. If at all possible, breastfeed your child for at least the first six months of his or her life. If you are unable to produce sufficient breast milk, consider purchasing it from a local milk bank. Or, you can supplement your breast milk with formula if you need to. When it comes to immune system development, some breast milk is better than none at all. As your child grows and begins to eat solids, try to avoid offering sweets. Instead, start by offering mashed fruits and vegetables, and some grains (such as softened rice). These types of foods will provide your little one with key nutrients, including vitamins and minerals that the immune system requires for optimal function. Supplementing your older child’s diet with a vitamin supplement may help fill in any gaps in his or her nutrient needs.
Boosting Your Immunity Into AdulthoodAs an adult, it’s possible to boost your immunity by adopting some healthier lifestyle habits. They include:
- Getting sufficient sleep at night
- Eating a healthy diet that’s rich in nutrients
- Avoiding excessive stress whenever possible
- Getting daily exercise
- Boosting your nutrient intake with supplements as needed
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