Cold and Cough season is amongst us, particularly with the monsoons going on (at least for those of you in the tropics), and all the post-diwali pollution. I have been getting a lot of questions via Instagram on how to deal with colds, coughs and all the pesky virals that are going around. Instead of focusing on recovery tips, which I have covered in the past, I would like to focus on why exactly our children are so susceptible to getting sick, and how their immunity affects them through the years.
Our immune system is kind of the security guards of our bodies, in a way. It fights off foreign bodies (that is, germs, bacterial and viral infections) by trying to figure out if they are good or bad and by making antibodies (infection fighting proteins) to combat them.
Your child's immune system development is also something to be aware of when you want to answer questions about how long you should nurse for, whether to give your child immune supplements or not, whether you should be sanitizing every time you touch your baby or toddler, and then your child.
After 2 to 3 months of age, a child’s body starts to make its own antibodies. In addition to this, the vaccines given to children at set intervals train their bodies to recognise specific diseases as highly dangerous and fight them at the first sign of contamination. Good, nutritious, healthy foods also protect the cells. Food based nutrients such as zinc (found in fortified cereals), or folic acid (found in egg yolks, actually build up a child's immunity, are only two of the many minerals and vitamins that are enhancing our children’s immune systems through food. However, there are also foods that can suppress our immunity -processed foods and sugar (including juices which that are very high in sugar) on the other hand, suppress it. Adequate amounts of sleep as well, have found to have benefits on immunity (these points are for adults too! The more sleep deprived you are, the more likely you are to fall sick).
As our children grow, the more germs and infections they are exposed to as well, the more their immunity and immune system develops (isn't that a shocker?). It's true though. Early exposure to germs, surprisingly reduces the chances of asthma and allergies and have been shown to strengthen the immune system. Study after study now support this "hygiene hypothesis" that shows that auto-immune diseases (diseases wherein the immune system is weakened or where the body's antibodies attack the body itself) are more prevalent in developed countries where antibiotics and anti-bacterials are used more heavily!
I hope this explains a little about why I talk about the importance of breast feeding, vaccination schedules, sanitisers being overused for children who are not new-borns, antibiotics and cough and cold medicines not being needed unless the child has a persistent fever (and the doctor prescribes it), and the importance of sleep and good nutrition. It all affects your children, their immunity and how well or healthily they get through flu season!