As if the regular old flu wasn't enough to worry about, the coronavirus pandemic has made this winter one of the most stressful ever for parents. That's particularly true for parents of babies, who are typically more vulnerable to illnesses that aren't necessarily a big deal for adults or even older kids. So what are some ways to boost your baby's immunity to the flu and coronavirus?
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 — including germs. Right now that might seem like an extra tall order, but as pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert, MD, FAAP, told Romper for a previous article, while "all humans are susceptible to coronavirus, including the COVID-19 subtype... at this time, there is no evidence to support increased susceptibility in children." And when they do get it, children are generally experiencing a "mild form of the disease," according to a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Of course, there are always exceptions, and no one wants their kid to be that exception. But there are certain preventative measures you can take to make sure your baby has the best shot possible of not catching a nasty virus, whatever that virus might be. (Even if you are staying inside 24/7.) Nothing is 100% 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," Dr. Danelle Fisher, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Romper. 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 formula or breastfeeding, they should be getting the correct recommended amount of vitamin C, according to the website of Dr. Andrew Weil, director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. He explained that 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
Zinc helps keep your immune system strong, reported WebMD, and Fisher says taking a zinc supplement can help boost your older child’s immunity. As for babies, children 7 months old to 3 years old can safely take 3 milligrams of zinc a day, according to WebMD, and the daily allowance goes up as the child gets older.
4. 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. 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," explained WebMD. Water also helps to regulate your kidney function, which is to cleanse your body of toxins.
If you have the flu, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages you to continue breastfeeding your child because the virus isn’t transmitted through the breastmilk. “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,” they state.
6. Make Sure They're Eating A Healthy Diet
Eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies are another good way to boost your child’s immune system, according to Dr. Gina Posner, a board-certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. It’s always a good idea to make sure you and your child are getting all the recommended daily values of vitamins and minerals to help your bodies and immune systems to work at 100%. Fisher agrees, and says that “a balanced and healthy diet can help the immune system to function optimally.”
7. Wash Your Hands Before Touching Them
Both Posner and Fisher recommend keeping the baby away from sick people and frequently washing your hands (and having 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.
8. Keep Surfaces Sanitized
Another good hygiene practice to do for entire family is to frequently disinfect 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.”
9. 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 recommends getting the flu vaccine, even though there have been reports of it being 10 to 30% 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% 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.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.
Dr. Danelle Fisher, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California
Dr. Gina Posner, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California
This article was originally published on