In step with changes of seasons, the functioning of the body’s immune system changes as well, especially in children, in whom, until the age of 12, the immune system is still in its forming stage. In autumn and winter, the change is related mainly to the lowered levels of vitamin D3 in the body, a deficiency being caused by the lack of sufficient sun exposure. It turns out that in summer children get sick much less often because they much more often, and for longer periods, stay outdoors. Sun rays stimulate the production of supporting the immune system vitamin D3, by activating in the body genes responsible for fighting bacteria. Some of them act as natural antibiotics—says Jan Nowak, MD, internal medicine specialist at the Medical Center in Warsaw.—Lowered disease resistance makes the child more prone to illness, and it is easier for it to “catch” various infections.
The first two years of a child’s life is a period, in which its immune system starts to form. Any unhealthy food, especially rich in sugar, interferes with this process. Excessive sugar levels in the body slow down the functionning of the immune system, and may diminish resistance to bacteria, viruses, and lead to upper respiratory tract infections.
Of course, the responsibility for the fact that our children frequently get sick cannot be attributed solely to changes in weather or bad diet. To a large extent, we are responsible for this ourselves. At fault are our bad hygiene habits, and, most of all, our inadequate hand hygiene. The World Health Organization (WHO) published in 2003 a report, in which it stated that that about 70 percent of the digestive tract infections had been caused by germs residing on the hands. The hands are a veritable “means of public transportation” for bacteria and viruses. The hands can transmit, among other, diarrhea-causing rotaviruses and noroviruses, Staphylococcus aureus, causing skin infections and food poisonings, Salmonella and E. coli bacteria, tapeworm and pinworm eggs. On the hands one can also find microorganisms causing upper respiratory tract infections—warns doctor Nowak.
Dangerous bacteria lurk everywhere. Fortunately, we can defend ourselves against them. Below we present a short list of priciples, which we should follow to bolster our child’s disease resistance:
- Supplementing our child’s diet with seasonal probiotics
- Proper diet of the child, containing the following vitamins and nutrients:
- vitamin C, and selen – the role of which is to enhance body’s disease resistance
- vitamin A – which improves integrity of mucous membranes
- vitamin E – which supports the role of vitamin A
- Regularly taking the child for a walk outdoors – well oxygenated body functions better, and the body cells are better nourished
- Avoiding overprotecting the healthy child – overdressing the child may lead to overheating, and may result in an infection
- Teaching good hygiene – the sooner we start the sooner we get the results we want
- Taking care of the child’s surroundings – it needs to be clean, but not sterile