The change of seasons often signals the start of cold and flu season, especially for kids that spend their days in school or daycare!
To help keep your child’s immune system in tip-top shape, be sure that they eat a balanced diet with lots of veggies, drink lots of water, get enough fresh air, and get a good night’s sleep.
Don’t forget the importance of regular hand washing! Scrubbing with plain soap and water for at least 20 seconds reduces the spread of respiratory illnesses by about 20% and diarrheal illnesses by about 30%. (1)
If your children are prone to colds, coughs, bronchitis, strep throat, ear infections, or sinus infections, a few additional measures may help them stay healthier and avoid the need for higher interventions, like antibiotics.
Below we’ve shared top supplements to support your kids’ immune health, especially during back-to-school season.*
You might not think of probiotics as a way to support a healthy immune system, but they can be a great addition to a healthy lifestyle.*
Clinical research shows that children ages 3 to 5 years who attend daycare have significantly fewer influenza-like respiratory symptoms when given a combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. Combination probiotics were shown to reduce fever risk by about 50%, cough by 40%, and runny nose by 30% compared to placebo. They were also significantly less likely to use an antibiotic for their symptoms. (2)*
Prebiotics can help feed the good bacteria in your gut, leading to favorable gut microflora. Specifically, Larch Arabinogalactan is thought to exert immune support activity by supporting natural killer cell activity and non-specific immune cell activity. (3)*
For colds and flu, practitioners often recommend one teaspoon of larch arabinogalactan powder in juice or water, taken 2-3 times daily at the first sign of symptoms.*
In a placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized clinical trial, a total of 199 healthy participants who had a self-reported cold infection rate of three in 6 months were randomly assigned to receive a total of either 4.5 g of an arabinogalactan preparation (n = 101) or placebo (n = 98) over 12 weeks. Researchers concluded that larch arabinogalactan supported the body's potential to defend against common cold infection. (4)*
Did you take elderberry syrup as a kid? There’s a good reason why your parents may have given it to you!
Elderberry is a traditional botanical immune herb that garnered interest several years ago when it was found to inhibit the binding of the flu virus (including H1N1) to cells in vitro. Since a virus can only replicate inside host cells, this can quickly interrupt or limit an upper respiratory infection. Elderberry also appears to support the body's production of cytokines, or immune messenger molecules.*
One Elderberry extract formulation reduced flu-like symptoms by about 70% when given within 48 hours of onset and provided significant symptom relief from fever and muscle aches within 2-4 days. (5)*
Fish oil, particularly cod liver oil, was traditionally used in the United States for rickets because of its high concentrations of vitamin D – specifically vitamin D3.*
Now, cod liver oil is used as an all-around supplement. It contains long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A, which can help support neurological development, mood, learning, and achievement.*
In a clinical study of infants and young children, taking cod liver oil and a children's multivitamin/mineral supplement decreased the number of pediatric visits per month for upper respiratory illness during the winter and early spring by 36%-58%. (6)*
Echinacea purpurea is native to North America and has been used for centuries to support immune health. It has been shown to stimulate macrophages and antibody production, which supports the body’s natural defense systems.*
In a current study, echinacea prevented nearly 33% of respiratory tract infections in children 4-12 years old, reducing antibiotic usage. (7)*
Echinacea Extract can support healthy immune response, antibody production, and macrophages during seasonal challenges.*
Vitamin C is an antioxidant widely known for its immune-supportive qualities. It has been the subject of controversy for years regarding health support during the common cold.*
In a meta-analysis, regular vitamin C supplementation decreased the duration of the common cold by an average of 14% in children. With higher prescribed dosages of vitamin C in children, the duration of the common cold further decreased by 18%. (8)*
Vitamin C combined with Bioflavonoids provides additional support for immune function and antioxidant activity. Further benefits include supporting collagen synthesis, vein and capillary health, and stable mast cells.*
When cold and flu season strikes, it’s important to use all the tools in your arsenal to keep your kids’ immune systems functioning at their best. First and foremost, feed your children a whole foods diet rich in antioxidants, B vitamins, calcium, vitamin E, collagen, and other vitamins and minerals. Fruits, veggies, fish, and lean meat are a perfect place to start!
Supplements can help fill in the blanks of a healthy diet to support the immune response. Since most kids can’t swallow whole pills, you’ll want to seek out small tablets, powders, gummy vitamins, or chewable products for an immune support supplement that you can stick with. As always, check with your pediatrician or healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimen.*
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2020
2. Pediatrics. 2009; 124(2):e172-9 [PMID: 19651563]
3. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2016; 13:28 [PMID: 27073407]
4. Curr Med Res Opin. 2013; 29(3):251-8 [PMID: 233339578]
5. J Int Med Res. 2004; 32(2):132-40 [PMID: 15080016]
6. J Am Coll Nutr. 2010; 29(6):559-62 [PMID: 21677119]
7. Eur J Med Res. 2021; 26(1):33 [PMID: 33832544]
8. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013; 2013(1):CD000980 [PMID: 23440782]
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.