Natural Ways to Boost Your Child's Immunity This School Year

Bringing a cold or flu virus home from school seems like part of childhood — but it doesn't have to be. Each year when school is back in session, Dr. Daniel Hsu's Manhattan-based practice is bustling with parents and tots seeking his services to up their immune systems. Here are a few of the tips he gives parents to help their children steer clear of that bug that's going around.

  • Time for Bed: In addition to dramatically improving your child's mood and ability to focus in class, sleep allows the body to repair and regenerate overnight. Getting enough shut-eye each night (a minimum of 7 hours, more for younger children) also helps the body fight inflammation and build up immunity. If insomnia is an issue, try creating a relaxing routine to help your little one wind down in the evening. A bath with soothing essential oils like lavender, followed by a cup of relaxing herbal tea can help calm even the most agitated child. Try making a cup for both of you to enjoy together as a ritual, accompanied by a story.

  • Eat Smart: Try limiting your child's sugar intake, and cook foods high in nutrients and antioxidants on a daily basis. If your child is picky, turn meals into a game, encouraging them to eat a rainbow of foods. Brightly colored greens, vibrant orange squashes and sweet potatoes, and ruby-hued berries are all rich in vitamins. For an extra boost to the immune system, add the common TCM herb Astragalus Root (Huang Qi) to chicken soup and other hot dishes. It has a subtle, earthy flavor and scent, which will likely go unnoticed by your child.

  • Get Outside: The importance of exercise – ideally outdoors – cannot be overstated, not only for overall health but also for toughening up the immune system. Spend some time walking to and from school with your child, or if it's too far, get outdoors and kick around the soccer ball, jump rope, or play a game of tag. Outdoor activities are also a great way for your family to spend time together and encourage an active lifestyle from an early age.

  • Acupuncture: Give your child an added line of defense by scheduling some acupuncture sessions. Shoni Shin and Cold Laser are two styles of painless, non-invasive acupuncture that your children will be much more comfortable with than needles. These treatments can be powerful tools for reducing inflammation and strengthening the immune system. And ‐ it doesn't take much! Five to 10 sessions can have a major impact on your child's health for over a month.

Always keep in mind that when your child heads off to school, a strong immune system is even more important than a sturdy backpack and sharp pencils. Be prepared by giving their young immune system the added boost it deserves.