As I'm sure you've read in the thousands upon thousands of articles written about it this winter, the flu is spreading like wildfire and it's bad. Really bad. This strand of flu is the worst we've had in a very long time and it's the most widespread, affecting almost all 50 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you've recently had a baby, you may be wondering if there are ways to boost your baby's immunity to the flu, because according to many reports, this particular strand can be potentially deadly, especially to pregnant women, the elderly and infants.
Your tiny baby seems pretty defenseless when it comes to many things, and it's your job to protect him or her from anything harmful and dangerous to the best of your ability — and that includes the flu. In lieu of wrapping your baby in bubble wrap, keeping them enclosed in a bubble, or even disinfecting the babysitter or everyone that comes into your home by spraying them down with Lysol, there are certain preventative measures you can take to make sure your baby has the best shot possible of not catching this nasty virus. Nothing is 100 percent foolproof, but at least these suggestions can help. And as always, before trying anything new, be sure to ask your pediatrician.
1. Make Sure They Rest
“The importance of getting good rest is key for the immune system to function optimally. Make sure children go to bed at a reasonable hour and try to have similar bedtimes every night, according to Dr. Danelle Fisher, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. As far as babies go, this may be easier said than done. Just try your best to make sure they’re relaxed as much as possible.
2. Give Them Vitamin C
According to Fisher, vitamin C can help boost your older child’s immunity, and this can be done through supplements and diet. As far as baby’s vitamin C intake, as long as your baby is drinking good formula or breastfeeding, they should be getting the correct recommended amount of vitamin C,according to director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona Dr. Weil’s website. Weil explained that until 6 months old, babies need 40 milligrams of vitamin C a day, and there is no need for supplements unless you’re breastfeeding and deficient in vitamin C yourself. “Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include fatigue, muscle weakness, joint and muscle aches, bleeding gums, and skin rashes (on the legs especially),” Weil said in the article. If you’re formula feeding, make sure your baby is getting at least 40 milligrams of vitamin C a day by checking the nutritional facts.
3. Consider Zinc
WebMD said zinc helps keep your immune system strong, and Fisher says taking a zinc supplement can help your older child’s immunity. As for babies, WebMd says children 7 months old to 3 years old can safely take 3 milligrams of zinc a day, and the daily allowance goes up as the child gets older.
4. Try Elderberry
Dr. Gina Posner, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, says there’s a study, albeit small, about elderberry supplements helping shorten the course of the flu and helping to prevent the flu and boost your immune system. Posner says she has her own kids on elderberry. “There don’t seem to be any harmful effects to taking it (unless you are allergic), so that is what I have been recommending,” she says. As for babies, according to holistic pregnancy website Mother Rising, "Babies can take 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of elderberry syrup per day for daily maintenance."
5. Keep Them Hydrated
For babies, drinking milk — whether breast milk or formula — is an important way to boost immunity and to maintain good overall health, according to Fisher. For older children, lots of water is the way to go. According to WebMd, drinking enough water keeps you healthy because it helps with the “digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature.” Water also helps to regulate your kidney function, which is to cleanse your body of toxins.
Posner says breastfeeding is also a great way to help with your baby’s immunity. And if you have the flu, the CDC said it’s OK to continue to breastfeed your child, because the virus isn’t transmitted through the breastmilk. Plus, “mother’s breast milk contains antibodies and other immunological factors that can help protect her infant from flu and is the recommended source of nutrition for the infant, even while the mother is ill,” according to the CDC.
7. Make Sure They're Eating A Healthy Diet
For older kids, eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies are another good way to boost your child’s immune system, according to Posner. It’s always a good idea to make sure you and your kids are getting all the recommended daily values of vitamins and minerals to help your bodies and immune systems to work at 100 percent. Fisher agrees, and says that “a balanced and healthy diet can help the immune system to function optimally.”
8. Wash Your Hands Before Touching Them
Both Posner and Fisher recommend keeping the baby away from sick people and frequently washing your hands (and have other people wash their hands) before touching the baby. “If someone says that they just have a little scratchy throat or are at the tail end of a cold, they can come visit another time,” Posner says. You can even wash your baby’s hands with soap and water, according to Baby Center.
9. Keep Surfaces Sanitized
Another good hygiene thing you can do for yourself to help your baby is to frequently disenfect all the surfaces in your home, Fisher says. “Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and then throw the tissue in the trash right away," advised Baby Center. "Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Wipe down bathroom and kitchen surfaces and toys frequently with a household disinfectant.”
10. Get The Flu Vaccine
Though your baby cannot get the flu shot until they’re older than six months old, you can preemptively protect your baby by getting vaccinated while pregnant. If you’re immune, your baby will come out being immune, too, according to a Baby Center article. And though the vaccine isn’t perfect, it is still the best way to minimize the flu’s effects on you if you do catch it. Additionally, the CDC recommended getting the flu vaccine, even though there have been reports of it being 10 to 30 percent effective this season. It makes the flu less severe and it will go away much faster than if you didn’t get vaccinated.
While it is never 100 percent guaranteed your baby won't get the flu, taking some of these steps may make it less likely to happen. As always, discuss any supplements with your pediatrician before giving them to your baby. Additionally, if your baby begins to exhibit any signs of having the flu, be sure to call their pediatrician right away.
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