The immune system is essential for ensuring health and well-being. From time to time and for various reasons, it loses its ability to react to external agents such as viruses, bacteria and starts a war to combat the presence of invaders. Sometimes, however, the organism loses the war and illnesses arise.
In children, this scenario is a little more complicated because immunity is still developing. This army of defenses begins during pregnancy by maternal antibodies and only matures around 12 years of age. Those who live with little ones know that they are more susceptible to flu, colds, viruses, thrush…
Flávia Monteiro, a pediatrician at the Arthur Ramos Memorial Hospital, in Maceió (AL) says that, mainly due to the sensitivity of the child’s immune system, with a peak of development between 5 and 7 years of age, children are very susceptible to the presence of new viruses.
The danger occurs when these situations become repetitive and disrupt the routine of the little one and the family. Parents or caregivers should turn on the warning sign.
Ana Paula Castro, a specialist in allergy and immunology and a physician on the clinical staff of the pediatrics unit at the Hospital Sírio-Libanês (SP), says that recurrent infections, such as otitis and pneumonia, or serious infections of the meningitis type, when there is a need for hospitalization , it’s time for a more careful investigation.
“It’s those children with three otitis in the year, for example. It’s not always something serious, sometimes the child has an underlying disease that needs to be treated.”
The pediatrician from Maceió explains that there are two types of immunity: innate and acquired. “The first one exists from birth, therefore, hereditary diseases can be responsible for some deficit, such as deficiencies in the formation of antibodies. The acquired one comes from contact with the mother’s antigens, breastfeeding, feeding and vaccines.”
Set of factors
The good news is that it is possible to boost the immune system with simple measures. Food is largely responsible for the construction of an efficient immunity, which needs to start already in pregnancy and extend until the age of 2, in the child’s first thousand days.
“It’s not stupid to worry about food while you are still pregnant and then offer the right foods to help in this defense system. Especially up to 5 years old”, explains Castro.
See how to boost the defense system for the little ones:
- Exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months;
- Start of complementary feeding, with natural foods;
- Iron supplementation recommended by the Ministry of Health;
- Offer foods rich in vitamin C, A, zinc and iron should be daily. If the child is not accepted, the supplementation must be analyzed individually;
- Encouragement of protein consumption and less carbohydrate intake;
- Sunbathing, outdoor walks and contact with nature cannot be lacking either.
Proteins cannot be lacking
Daniel Magnoni, a nutrologist, cardiologist and head of nutrology at Instituto Dante Pazzanese, in São Paulo, guarantees that cellular immunity and an increase in antibodies are stimulated by the consumption of proteins. Those who do not want animal protein sources can focus on legumes such as soy, peas, lentils and chickpeas.
“To facilitate absorption, they should be consumed with more acidic Ph sources, such as orange, passion fruit and lemon.”
The doctor explains that, after going to school, the child starts eating industrialized snacks, pizza —since many canteens still have these items available for sale— and deficiencies may arise, as verified by clinical and laboratory tests. “If necessary, we indicate supplementation and the most common are the complex vitamins A, B, C and D.”
Up to 2 years of age, the child does not usually have problems eating. But after that phase, she starts scowling at certain foods.
There is not much secret and it takes patience and a playful touch. Offer colorful food of varying consistency, avoid acidic and bitter foods.
One of the tips is to let the child eat alone to discover the consistency and crunchiness of each type of food.
“And don’t play around, making airplanes, which doesn’t work. For immunity, choose proteins that are easier to chew, like ground beef, or small pieces of meat. Include manioc or potatoes and salt, for example.”
Back to school after more than 1 year and a half at home due to the pandemic, Castro remembers that the time is to reinforce certain precautions. Mainly in relation to flu and pneumococcus vaccines.
“Many children did not get immunized last year and the vaccination schedule needs to be updated before sending the child to school.”
According to Monteiro, the temperature can also aggravate these conditions. Winter brings a natural increase in allergic and respiratory diseases, due to the formation of conglomerates and dryness of respiratory mucous caused by the cold.
And it is precisely the humidified mucous membranes that are the first barrier to invading agents from the respiratory tract.
In relation to summer, high temperatures favor dehydration and skin lesions, also breaking the protective mechanism of the mucosal barrier.
In both cases, hydration is essential, with water and natural juices preferably.