How to Boost Your Immune System
"The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each fall," according to the CDC's website. Each year, scientists predict which strains of the flu will circulate, and they combine three strains to create the flu vaccine. The vaccination is completely natural and introduces small amounts of common flu viruses into the body. The immune system responds by defeating the virus, and since the immune system has a memory, you're at less risk once it knows how to defend against a particular virus. Flu vaccines should be administered in October or November because flu season generally runs from October through May.
There are two variations of the vaccination available: The flu shot is an inactivated vaccine containing a dead form of the virus, while the Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV) is a nasal spray version of the flu vaccine containing live flu viruses. Children six months or older, people with chronic illnesses, and healthy people can take the flu shot. Side effects include soreness at the injection site, low-grade fever, and aches.
To ensure those at highest risk of complications from the flu have access to vaccine, the CDC sometimes recommends that people in certain priority groups receive the flu shot early in the season. Included in this "priority group" are:
- people aged 65 years and older, with and without chronic health conditions
- residents of long-term care facilities
- people aged 2–64 years with chronic health conditions
- children aged 6–23 months
- pregnant women
- healthcare personnel who provide direct patient care
- household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children younger than 6 months
Recipients of the LAIV vaccine should be between the ages of five and 49, and should not be pregnant. This vaccine is not subject to prioritization and can be given at any time.
Dr. Neustaedter of the Holistic Pediatric Association describes how supplements can boost the immune system in his book, FLU: Alternative Treatments and Prevention. "The easiest way to give supplements to children is through powdered sources mixed in a blender with fruit, fruit juice, yogurt, or milk (rice milk for younger children and children with milk sensitivities), and honey (for children over 12 months old). Capsules can be opened and dumped into the blender. Children can chew oil-based supplements in soft gels, or you can stick a pin into them and squirt out the contents onto something they will eat," says Dr. Neustaedter. It's a simple game of hide-in-sweet.
Here is an overview of several supplements that can be used to help strengthen your and your child's defenses. Be sure to first speak with your doctor or pediatrician before implementing any new dietary or supplemental regime.