Normally, your kid is busy, bouncing off the walls — and driving you bonkers. But then he wakes up one morning and he’s not quite himself. As a momma, sometimes you can just sense that something is “coming on,” and that your child is on the road towards Sickville but isn’t quite there yet. So knowing the signs your kid's immune system is compromised can come in handy when they're coming down with a cold or some other kind of cooties.
Kids and illnesses go hand in hand. All it takes is to hear one “Achoo!” and you’re probably whipping out the antibacterial wipes in the hopes of stopping a full-on germ assault that could threaten to take out the entire family. “A child’s immune system is not fully developed like it is in adults,” family doctor Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, M.D., tells Romper. “Kids that are younger than three have a weak immune response, which makes them susceptible to various viral and bacterial attacks.”
Thing is, germs can be a necessary evil when it comes to strengthening your child’s immune system. “In low amounts, germs teach your child’s immune system how to respond appropriately, and create the necessary antibodies, so that when there’s a full-on attack (e.g., by a virus), their body can react so that they successfully combat the illness,” says Dr. Djordjevic. From looking a little droopy to not eating, know the signs that your kid’s immune system is compromised.
1. He's Drowsy
A tired kid isn’t usually a red flag for illness — unless your kid is coming down with something. If your child just wants to crash on the couch and do nothing (and it’s not from staying up super late the night before), it could be a sign that his immune system is fighting off something, advises Dr. Djordjevic.
2. He’s Off
You know your kid better than anyone else. So when your child is just, well, off, he might be getting sick. He might be listless, cranky, or just unable to be at ease. He might not want to do some of his favorite activities such as playing — or annoying his other siblings.
3. He's Hot
A fever can be a mom’s best friend in getting a heads up that your child is under the weather. “Fevers are a response to infections — it means the body is doing what it needs to do to fight them off,” Scott Goldstein M.D., a pediatrician at The Northwestern Children’s Practice in Chicago, told Today. When to worry: If your child is under 2 years old and has a fever of 100.4, you should call the doctor ASAP.
4. He's Not Hungry
You’ve offered your child all the kid-friendly faves, like mac ‘n cheese, chicken tenders, and French fries. Heck, you even offered him ice cream for dinner, and still, nothing. A compromised immune system might affect your child’s appetite, according to Indiana University School of Medicine. But don’t panic if he misses a meal or two — the important thing is for your child to drink plenty of fluids. Eventually, his appetite will return.
5. He Has A Rash
Kids always seem to have some sort of rash or redness on their skin. But a rash on your child that isn’t attributable to an allergy might be a sign of a viral infection, Medical News Today reported. How the rash is treated depends on what’s causing it, but if it lasts longer than a week, spreads quickly, and is hurting your child, you should seek medical attention.
6. He Has Tummy Troubles
An immune system issue can really take a toll on your child’s tummy. “He might experience cramps or diarrhea as a result of a poor immune system,” says Dr. Djordjevic. Be sure to keep your kid hydrated to prevent dehydration and get your child on the path to wellness once again.
While your kid catching cooties is almost unavoidable, there are ways to help boost his immune system. “A consistent, healthy diet that includes nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein, and good carbohydrates are the basis for a child’s growth and a strong immune system,” advises Dr. Djordjevic.
And as ironic as it may seem, proper exposure to germs can help your kid stay healthier, too. So if you’re looking for the silver lining when your child is sick, just remember that with each cold, your child’s system is getting stronger and healthier.
Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, M.D., family doctor