Keep Your Child’s Immune System Strong with These 5 Tips

Keep Your Child’s Immune System Strong with These 5 Tips

  • Kids' Health

  • By Desiree Nielsen, Registered Dietitian

    It’s sniffle season. How has your family fared so far?

    While it is inevitable that a few germs will cross our path over the colder months, our little ones’ developing immune systems leave them, particularly at risk. WebMD reports that kindergarteners may get up to 12 colds a year! It’s a phenomenon I’ve seen firsthand: when my son transitioned from homecare into daycare, he was sick every single month for the first year. My daughter, on the other hand, despite seeing kids regularly, has a less concentrated exposure than what you would find in a daycare setting, and as such experiences far fewer colds. 

    Spending time in close quarters with other little germ factories influences our children’s susceptibility to colds - but it's not the only factor. Good health habits, like handwashing and veggie eating, are one of the most critical tools in staying healthy and stopping the spread of cold and flu. But kids are kids, and they aren’t always super diligent about their hand hygiene or wanting to eat all of the colourful, vitamin-rich veggies on their plates.

    While you can’t protect your kids 100% from infection, there are a few things you can do to help support their natural defenses.


    Tuck your little ones in a bit earlier

    A good sleep is like hitting the reset button: sleep is critical for growth and repair of tissues in addition to regulating immune function. Sleep deficits are believed to impair critical anti-viral immune responses and increase chronic inflammatory ones1. According to the National Sleep Foundation, school-aged children need 9 to 11 hours of sleep and preschoolers need 10 to 13 hours nightly.

    If bedtime is a struggle, do your best to create soothing bedtime rituals. Keep kids away from screens within an hour of bedtime. If your children like the scent, perhaps run a bath with lavender bubbles or use a lavender body wash for relaxation. Keep the room cool and dark, with plenty of bed layers so kids can cover up as they wish.


    Pack a Bio-Kidz in their lunch kits

    With 80% of immune activity centred in and around the gut, having a healthy community of gut bacteria matters. In fact, gut bacteria play an active role in the development and ongoing function of the immune system2. Evidence suggests that taking a daily probiotic is an effective strategy for preventing cold and flu3. In delicious Vanilla and Strawberry varieties, there’s a flavour every kid will love. And just in case, it’s a great smoothie addition too!

    When choosing a probiotic for your children, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by choice. Unlike many of the fermented foods on the shelves, Bio-K+ bottle contains a unique synergy of three live lactobacillus strains with a guaranteed potency until the expiry date. Family owned in Laval, Quebec, Bio-K+ has been a trusted partner in gut health with over 20 years of proven safety and efficacy.


    Rethink snack time

    Particularly after the indulgent holiday season, it’s important to minimize your kid’s intake of sugars as a high sugar diet can hinder immunity4. If your child has a smaller appetite, choosing nutrient-dense snacks instead of sugary fare is even more critical to ensure that they do not lack nutrients that impact immunity.

    Instead of sweet snacks, try packing a homemade trail mix with zinc-rich pumpkin seeds. Zinc is a critical mineral for little immune systems, and if your kids have a small appetite or don’t eat a lot of legumes, nuts or meat, they may not be getting enough. As a bonus, they’re school friendly! Keep the mix to 1/3 dried fruit to 2/3 pumpkin seeds and roasted chickpeas to keep the sweet factor in check.

    Smoothies make a great after-school snack, and they are an easy way to sneak in lots of vitamin C rich foods. Let your children choose their favourite berry as the star ingredient and when they’re not looking, throw in a handful of baby spinach. They’ll never know!


    Put a drop of D on top

    Vitamin D is a critical modulator of the immune system; as a long-term wellness strategy, a drop of Vitamin D3 on the evening meal is an easy way to get your kids their daily dose without having to deal with a pill.

    Vitamin D3 is an interesting molecule; it operates more like a hormone than a traditional vitamin in the human body. Low levels of vitamin D3 – which are common – are associated with an increased risk of infection5. However, you can’t consider D3 a short-term prevention strategy. One 2017 trial looking at high doses (2000IU) versus standard dosing (400IU) in children did not show reduced incidence of cold and flu5. So don’t just take your Vitamin D during times of illness – take it for life as it’s critical to proper immune function.


    Get active as a family

    Regular, moderate exercise improves immune function6. Even in the colder months, find a way to be active! When the weather permits, going skating, tobogganing or out for a nature walk is a great way to spend time together as a family and keep the immune system primed. When the weather isn’t cooperating, try going for a swim; sometimes, even a living room dance party will do the trick!


    As parents, we want to do everything we can to ensure that our children have as few sick days as possible. Despite our efforts it’s normal for everyone to catch the sniffles from time to time. Get into a good handwashing routine at home, teach children to cough into their sleeves to prevent the spread of germs, and use the strategies here to help minimize the impact of cold or flu on your family.


    If you have any other questions on kid’s health, let us know in comments below! For more healthy tips, join our community. To stock up on Bio-K+, head to our store locatorContact us or find us on Facebook and Instagram.




    1. Irwin, Michael R. “Why Sleep Is Important for Health: A Psychoneuroimmunology Perspective.”Annual review of psychology66 (2015): 143–172. PMC. Web. 4 Jan. 2018. Why Sleep Is Important for Health: A Psychoneuroimmunology Perspective - PMC (


    1. Belkaid, Yasmine, and Timothy Hand. “Role of the Microbiota in Immunity and Inflammation.”Cell157.1 (2014): 121–141. PMC. Web. 4 Jan. 2018.


    1. Hao, Qiukui, Bi Rong Dong, and Taixiang Wu. "Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections."The Cochrane Library(2015). Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections - Hao, Q - 2015 | Cochrane Library


    1. Myles, Ian A. “Fast Food Fever: Reviewing the Impacts of the Western Diet on Immunity.”Nutrition Journal13 (2014): 61. PMC. Web. 4 Jan. 2018. Fast food fever: reviewing the impacts of the Western diet on immunity - PMC (


    1. Aglipay, Mary, et al. "Effect of high-dose vs standard-dose wintertime vitamin D supplementation on viral upper respiratory tract infections in young healthy children."Jama318.3 (2017): 245-254.


    1. Turner, James E. “Is Immunosenescence Influenced by Our Lifetime ‘dose’ of Exercise?”Biogerontology17 (2016): 581–602. PMC. Web. 4 Jan. 2018. Is immunosenescence influenced by our lifetime “dose” of exercise? - PMC (

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    Desiree Nielsen Registered Dietitian
    About the author
    Desiree Nielsen is a registered dietitian, author and host of the vegetarian cooking sshow, The Urban Vegetarian. Desiree takes an evidence-based, integrative approach to her dietetics work, with a focus on anti-inflammatory, plant-centredcentered nutrition and digestive health.
    View all articles by Desiree Nielsen
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