Pro Tips: Staying Immune Strong for Kids

We are facing new challenges of how to keep our children healthy and well. In addition to the usual parent stresses of making them a healthy lunch, adequate sleep, and getting them up on time to the school bus, we now have to wrestle with the concerns of COVID and all of its kissing cousins Delta, Epsilon, Lambda, and many others yet to appear.

As a father of three teenage children, I share those concerns and burden on keeping my children safe, healthy, and immune strong. Here are a few my Pharmacist Pro Tips for keeping little one’s immune system healthy and well.

Sleep

There is just no substitute for good, quality sleep. This is why I put it first on the list. Insufficient sleep can significantly impact a child’s immune system.

Studies have shown that less than 7 hours of sleep can increase risk of a cold  infection by 3-fold. Furthermore, children need a lot more sleep than adults. Depending on their age, children’s sleep requirements range between 8-12 hours of sleep per night.

Pharmacist Pro Tip #1: Develop a bedtime routine that will yield 8 or more hours of sleep. Having trouble sleeping? Check out my Pharmacist Dosing Recommendations for Melatonin.

Exercise

Exercising for 20 to 30 minutes or more per day not only improves mental health and overall focus, but has a positive impact on the immune system. When you exercise, you help flush bacteria and toxins out of the lungs and airways reducing your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness. Exercise also helps increase white blood cell circulation (WBC), the body’s immune system cells that fight disease.

Children should be involved in a sport or exercise of some kind so they are getting this important immune strengthening activity. Another option is to schedule a study break later in the evening and go on a 20 minute walk with them.

Pharmacist Pro Tip #2: Exercise strengthens the immune system! Make it a routine to walk for 20 minutes after family dinner.

Hand Washing

Kids will be kids, which means they love to connect and interact with their environment by touching things—be it a toddler who explores the world by putting everything in their mouth or the teenager who is too forgetful or stubborn to wash their hands. Poor hand hygiene is still a major source of infection.

This topic undoubtedly has been covered a zillion times before, so I will keep this to the point. My Pharmacist Pro tip is to use soap and water to clean the hands for 20 seconds whenever possible. If that is not available, the next best option is to use a hand sanitizer containing 60% ethyl alcohol. Anything less that 60% does not provide the antibacterial/anti-viral power to properly clean the hands.

Pharmacist Pro Tip #3: Keep a small bottle of 60% hand sanitizer in the car or bookbag for when soap and water is not near by.

Diet

Simply stated, you are what you eat. Or perhaps a more relevant analogy would be: the healthier the food, the healthier the immune system. The body needs the proper fuel to function well. And the immune system is no exception. While this article is not intended to cover all aspects of a proper diet, there are some foods that are more beneficial to the immune system.

Pharmacist Pro Tip #4: Add these Foods to Your Diet for a Healthier Immune System.
  • Citrus Fruit: Grapefruit, Oranges, Tangerines – no surprise here. Citrus contains Vitamin C, known for its ability to support white blood cells.
  • Red Bell Peppers: This amazing vegetable contains almost 3 times as much vitamin C compared to an orange. And makes for a great snack!
  • Broccoli: I know, I know…blah…but it is jam packed with vitamins A, C, and E.
  • Kiwi: I love Kiwi because it is portable, tasty, and packed with folate, potassium, vitamin K & C.
  • Almonds: Vitamin E is an important part of overall immune strength. A half-cup serving of almonds provides almost 100% of the recommended daily amount.
  • Yogurt: Avoid yogurts with flavor as they will have sugar. Instead look for plain or Greek yogurt that have “live or active cultures” and add some honey or fruit.

Supplements

Perhaps the question I get asked most often is which supplements are best for my child’s Immune Health. Assuming your kids are like mine in that they skip a meal, eat fast food, get inadequate amounts of sleep (who doesn’t) or all of the above, then supplementation can help bridge those gaps when life gets a little too hectic. There are supplements that work best when taken “long term” and there are other supplements that are for “immediate” need. Below are my recommendations for each category.

Pharmacist Pro Tip #5: Use these Supplements for Daily Immune Support. These supplements are intended to be taken daily to support proper immune function. They are not very useful once a child is sick.
  • Multi-vitamin
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc
  • Probiotics
  • Melatonin (see my recent article about proper Melatonin dosing)
Pharmacist Pro Tip #6: Use these Supplements for Immediate Immune Support. These supplements are intended to be taken when the immune system has been compromised. They have good data and long-term use for strengthening the immune system rapidly.
  • Andrographis is one of the strongest herbs for immune support. Best formulated in combination with other herbs, Andrographis is a powerful immune modulator and anti-inflammatory. Ideally the herb should be standardized to 30% Andrographolide or higher. Ages 12 and older.
  • Elderberry contains high concentrations of standardized anthocyanins and flavonoids. Can be used for Children ages 3 and up.
  • Echinacea purpurea comes in many different varieties but it is the root of the Echinacea purpurea that contains the powerful immune enhancing benefits. Look for products that use standardized Echinacea purpurea and preferably in combination with other adaptogen herbs.
  • Panax Ginseng – using the correct ginseng makes all the difference. Panax or Red Ginseng contains the proper Ginsenosides that engage T cells and NK cells for fast immune support. Recommended for ages 12 and up.
  • Selenium is the most powerful anti-oxidant on planet earth. For this mineral a little goes a long way. Recommended dose no more than 150 – 200 mcg/day.
  • Zinc is a powerful anti-viral that has been a staple of many immune protocols. Best combined with Selenium for a more robust immune response. Can also be used alone in higher doses but often causes nausea and GI discomfort.
  • Garlic containing allicin has powerful anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Garlic increases immune health by engaging protective NK cells and macrophages.
  • Oregano is rich in antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation. Oregano also contains carvacrol and thymol, two compounds associated with strong antiviral activity.

Summary

As an immunology expert, pharmacist, and a father, I hope my Pharmacist Pro Tips help to keep your family’s immune system healthy and well.

Medical Disclaimer
Not all of these recommendations may be appropriate for your child. Your child’s age, overall health, other illnesses and medication will determine if these are appropriate.

NOTE: WholeFoods Magazine is a business-to-business publication. Information on this site should not be considered medical advice or a way to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. Always seek the advice of a medical professional before making lifestyle changes, including taking a dietary supplement. The opinions expressed by contributors and experts quoted in articles are not necessarily those of the publisher or editors of WholeFoods.

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Dr. Jason DuBois is a registered pharmacist, educator and Founder of Hybrid Remedies, a natural supplement research and development company. Dr. Jason DuBois’ passion as a pharmacist has always been about helping people find ways to get better faster. Whether giving talks to healthcare professionals, or advising friends and family, Dr. DuBois enjoys taking complex health subjects and making them relevant and easy to understand. With over 18 years of pharmacy experience, spanning the full spectrum of retail to clinical research, Dr. DuBois uses his understanding of science and nature to help patients find their ideal path to better health and wellness. Dr. DuBois graduated Cum Laude with a Doctorate degree in Pharmacy from the University of Florida. He started his career in retail pharmacy, but soon went on to specialize in immunology and solid organ transplantation at a world renowned Solid Organ Transplant Clinic in Northeast Florida. During his tenure as the senior transplant pharmacist, Dr. DuBois designed and implemented numerous clinical trials and drug protocols, served as a mentor for many resident research initiatives, and a contributing author on several published articles, manuscripts and protocols. His most notable achievements were the pioneering of four successful solid organ transplant programs for Mayo Clinic and a medication therapy management program designed to help patient’s learn and optimize their medication and supplement regimen. Ironically, Dr. DuBois penchant for natural supplements actually came out of sheer skepticism. Prior to 2004, Dr. DuBois was an “unbeliever” to put it lightly. After years of not advocating for natural supplements, he decided to challenge his own biased notions about whether supplements could truly be effective. Through his own research, Dr. DuBois set out to determine if there was any credible scientific evidence supporting the use of natural supplements for the immune system. After years of intense research, Dr. DuBois made several pivotal discoveries that convert his beliefs about natural supplements. As a result, he went on to start his own supplement company and a novel immune blend called HybridCR™. To date, Dr. DuBois has counseled thousands of patients, improving their health and wellness with insightful advice on how to get the most from medications and supplements. Dr. DuBois uses his clinical expertise and knowledge of Eastern and Western medicine to help patients safely integrate natural supplements, prescription, and over the counter medications together.