Immune Boosters for Kids

get sick well
bowl of soup on a cloth napkin
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / [deandrobot]

With kids, the goal isn’t to prevent them from ever getting sick, but instead to help them to get sick well. This means to have an appropriate immune response, to clear the infection and prevent it from deepening, and to boost their systems so the infections are as few and far between as possible. What we don’t want to see is the lingering cough or congestion that seems to last the whole winter, or children becoming symptomatic from every germ they meet.


Water is one of the most versatile, inexpensive, and therapeutic agents we have and yet one of the most underutilized. Here are some of the ways we can use water to support the immune system:


A dehydrated body will have sluggish lymphatic and elimination systems. It’s important to make sure kids are drinking enough filtered water. The right amount should reflect their body size, age, and increased need from illness, activity, sweating, etc., but a good rule of thumb is:

  • 1 cup per day for each year of age up to around age 4
  • Approximately 5 cups a day for ages 4-8
  • More than 5 cups per day for older children, depending largely on body size. 

Avoid flavouring water with chemicals that also contain dyes, sweeteners, and sugar (including sports drinks). If your little one is struggling to get enough water, try a bottle with a straw and encourage sips throughout the day. You can make a game out of it such as, “red light—3 sips to turn it green!” You can also encourage herbal tea/teacicles, and increase foods with high water content like watermelon, cucumber, and low-sodium broth-based soups.


Water can also be used on our bodies to encourage movement in circulation and lymphatics (immune system). This can be in the form of a bath or magic socks.

Magic Socks

At bedtime, after a warm bath, soak a pair of cotton socks in cold water, wring out excess, then put on child. Layer with a pair of wool socks. While your little one is sleeping, the contrast between the cold socks and the body, and wool socks then warming the feet, increases circulation and can help with general immune support as well as congestion.

feet with socks on in front of a fireplace
© Can Stock Photo Inc.


Wash Up

Never forget the power of soap and water. Teach your kids to wash their hands with soap and water when they first enter the house, before and after meals, and after using the washroom. Little kids often love to play at cleaning, so get them involved in regular table wipes and, often overlooked, regular toy washes. In our house we call them pool parties! The toys that can get wet join my son in the bath, or he plays with them in a soap-and-water filled bowl in the kitchen sink or bucket on the lawn.

Rinse and Repeat

Rinsing the throat and nasal passages to prevent germs from setting up shop in those tissues can be helpful, as prevention as well as treatment. For the sinuses, you can use a spray with a saline or saline-xylitol solution. For the throat, you can make a solution with sea salt and filtered water, and/or green tea, to gargle. Start by teaching your little one to gargle with plain filtered water first (parent tip: Do this in the bathtub!). An easy way to remember this little ritual is to do it when you brush your teeth. Keep a bottle of salt water and your nasal rinse set-up in the bathroom and tie it to this automated activity so you can’t forget!


Our immune systems will function much better with more sleep, so make this a priority in your home, especially during cold and flu season, and certainly while fighting an infection. Set the stage for restorative sleep by avoiding screens before bed, taking time to enter dreamland in a calm state, and by instituting an earlier bedtime. 


Plenty of physical activity for children is so important for many aspects of mental and physical health, including the immune system. It aids in improving the immune response, circulation, and sleep quality, as well as decreasing stress levels. Fresh air is always best, but if the weather is not cooperating, consider indoor activities such as an obstacle course, yoga, or dance party. For older kids I also recommend flash card workouts or a countdown-style session keeping it fun. 


Here’s a great daily checklist of foods to include that contain nutrients the immune system needs to function optimally:

  • An orange vegetable such as sweet potato, squash, or carrot. Add to a blender juice (try a combo of apple, carrot, ginger, lemon, orange) or into pasta sauce
  • Dark green vegetables such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, or broccoli. Enjoy on their own or blended in smoothies or soup
  • Vitamin C foods like red bell peppers, apples, kiwis, berries, pineapple, and citrus
  • Healthy fats like avocado, nuts and seeds, or their butter (especially pumpkin seed butter), olive oil, coconut oil, and fish/fish oil  
  • Bone broth (or its powder) can be used in soups or added to water for cooking rice, grains, and legumes, or added to puréed foods or even pasta sauce
  • Limit added sugar (especially fructose) as much as possible, as it decreases the functioning of immune cells 
  • Use caution with dairy as it can increase congestion, and chronically congested and inflamed mucus membranes are easy places for germs to populate 


Some of my favourite herbs to use with kids include echinacea, elderberry, ginger (especially if they’re congested), and lemon balm, which are all available in chewables, syrups, tinctures, and teas.


Tasty Tea-cicles

Brew a pot of tea with lemon balm, echinacea, elderberry, and fresh ginger. Let steep for 10 mins. Add to a high-powered blender with a little honey (for kids over 1 year old), and blend with favourite fruits such as berries, pineapple, and apple. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.

Probiotics, as well as beta-carotene, vitamins C and D, and zinc are also helpful supports. Note: It’s important when using herbs or supplementation to make sure you check with your healthcare provider for appropriate dosing. 

The ultimate goal is to help your little ones get sick well rather than avoid ever having an infection. It’s going to happen and it’s part of developing a healthy, well-balanced immune system life-long. And parents, make sure you take some of these tips for you too! 


You May Also Like: A Back-to-School Immunity Boost, Keeping Kids' Immune Systems Strong Naturally, Tips for a Happy and Healthy Immune System.

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