1. Take a vitamin supplement
If you’re breastfeeding a baby under three months, your main defence is to carry on. ‘Breastmilk contains all the nutrients and immune-boosting goodness your baby needs,’ says GP Catti Moss. ‘If your baby is older than three months, you could give her a daily multivitamin.’ Try Vitabiotics WellKid Baby Syrup
. Or, for over-threes, try Haliborange Kids Omega-3 Syrup With Vitamins A, C, D & E
Once your baby is weaned, you can boost her vitamins through food. ‘Zinc is known to strengthen your immune system, so it can resist infections like colds,’ says nutritionist Amanda Ursell. Find it in red meat, oily fish and wholegrain cereals. ‘And studies show that, while vitamin C won’t prevent a cold, it will reduce its severity and length.’ Fill up on berries, citrus fruits, dark green vegetables and brightly coloured peppers.
It’s important your baby gets plenty of fresh air, even when you don’t feel like going out. ‘Vitamin D is a crucial bone-building, immune-boosting vitamin, which comes mainly from exposure to the sun,’ says Amanda. ‘Even in winter, your child gets a little bit of sun whenever they step outside in daylight – 20 minutes is enough. Fresh air also clears out her lungs, and going outside usually leads to some exercise, which will boost everyone’s mood.’ It also reduces your baby’s exposure to other people’s bugs, so make your way to your nearest park.
2. Make sure you get plenty of fresh air and sunshine
That said, no matter how much you get your baby outside, it’s a good idea to get a Vitamin D supplement too. The NHS recommends that all babies and young children aged six months to five years (whatever the time of year) should take a daily supplement containing 7-8.5 micrograms of vitamin D.
Formula-fed babies don’t need vitamin drops until they’re receiving less than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day, as these products are fortified with vitamin D.
Although experts are split on this, there is research that suggests being physically cold makes you more likely to catch a bug, as it lowers your immunity. One study, by the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff, found that volunteers who kept their bare feet in icy water for 20 minutes were more likely to develop a cold in the following week than those who didn’t.
3. Keep your baby wrapped up warm
‘Being cold stresses a child’s immune system, making her more susceptible to illness,’ says Angela Chalmers, Boots pharmacist. ‘Layer her up with long-sleeved T-shirts, fleeces, hats and scarves. It’s better to take off layers as needed, rather than putting her in one big coat that can cause her to overheat when she runs around.’ Take off soggy hats and socks as soon as possible, too – they cause body temperature to drop quickly.
You’ve been at playgroup with your crawling baby and not only has she come back filthy, but she’s been mingling with the snottiest kids in town. ‘Nothing reduces your baby’s odds of getting ill as much as hand washing, especially once she’s mobile and picking up more germs,’ says Angela.
5. Make hand washing key
Hand gels are great if you’re out, but bear in mind, they don’t usually beat the norovirus, which causes vomiting. ‘Good old-fashioned warm water with soap kills nearly all bugs, including this one,’ says Catti. With younger babies, wipe their hands after you’ve changed them, and keep toys clean. Until your tot is mobile, she’s more likely to catch germs from shared toys than from physical contact with other children.
8. Boost your baby’s EFAs
Tucking into oily fish such as salmon isn’t just good for boosting brain development, the high levels of essential fatty acids (EFAs) have also been found to help improve immunity in children.
EFAs are needed to help white blood cells – which fight off infection – to function. A study in the Journal of Immunology discovered that children with a history of respiratory infections get better more quickly when taking EFA supplements.
And while oily fish is a great source of EFAs, it’s not always the easiest of foods to get past the average two-year-old, so a supplement may be an easier alternative. Try Biocare Children’s OmegaBerry
, which has a tropical fruit flavour.
9. Try the wonder berry!
While boosting your toddler’s immune system with plenty of fruit and vegetables is a great start, you can give it a helping hand with black elderberries.
They have twice the natural antioxidant capacity of blueberries and more than 50% the overall antioxidant capability of cranberries. Antioxidants help strengthen the immune system.
Try Sambucol for Kids
, a black elderberry extract syrup which is suitable for children aged 1-12 years old.