Infants and children are among the most vulnerable to get infected with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease. Thus, it is important to keep them healthy and protected to fight off the virus. The immune system serves as our shield from various infections and may weaken over time.
A compromised immune system will make us prone to the foreign substances like virus and bacteria that is waiting to attack our body. Hence, we must boost and strengthen it with good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.
The immune system of infants and children are being developed as they grow, making them susceptible to diseases. And with a more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19, the cases of infected children increased to 29.59% from July 21 to August 3, 2021 as recorded by the Department of Health (DOH). Even pediatricians warned the parents on how deadly the new variant is, especially for the kids.
But how can we strengthen their immune system and keep them protected in this pandemic?
Exclusively breastfeed infants from birth up to six (6) months, and give complementary foods at 6 months while continuing breastfeeding until two (2) years of age and beyond. Breastmilk provides all the nutrients and antibodies that an infant needs to protect themselves. No additional liquid and solid food other than breastmilk is needed for the first 6 months of the baby.
Starting 6 months, breastmilk must be complemented with an age-appropriate, safe, and nutritious solid foods. To increase immunity, breastfeeding is suggested to be continued up to two (2) years of age and beyond.
Eat well-balanced, varied, and nutritious meals. A healthy diet is one important way for families to boost the immunity of young children against COVID-19.
Parents and caregivers can use the Pinggang Pinoy for kids as guide in filling up the child’s plate with a balanced, wide-variety, and healthy meal composed of GO (e.g. rice, root crops, bread), GROW (e.g. egg, meat, beans) and GLOW foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables). Eating salty, fried, fatty and sugar-rich foods can cause health problems.
Drink plenty of water and serve healthy snacks. Kids need to drink at least five (5) or more glasses per day. Adding one to two healthy snacks can help them nourished to get through the day.
It is best to offer fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks than empty-calorie food such as soft drinks and sweets. Limit highly processed foods – high in free sugars, salt, and trans-fat – and avoid sugary drinks, as these may damage the teeth and long-term health.
Regular physical activity
Since children are not allowed outside, most of them spent their days laying around, watching television, or playing mobile games.
Such habits may lead to obesity and chronic diseases. Limit screen time to one hour per day for ages 2 to 12 years old. Keeping them moving and active can strengthen the immune system. It can also help them develop strong bones and muscles to prevent them from getting hurt easily. Parents can also bond with their children through exercise.
Complete routine immunization
The Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) of DOH ensures to immunize all infants/children against the most common vaccine-preventable diseases. It also reduces the morbidity and mortality among children and boosts immunity. Parents are encouraged to have their children complete the mandated vaccines para TODO LIGTAS – manigurado, magpabakuna nang kumpleto.
Practice good hygiene
Good hygiene greatly contributes to keeping us protected in the pandemic. Regular handwashing keeps the bacteria and viruses from entering the body and compromising the immune system.
The National Task Force Against COVID-19 has started studying the inclusion of children 12 to 17 years old in the government’s vaccination program against COVID -19. While this is yet to be implemented, parents are encouraged to protect their children from COVID-19 by boosting their immune system and making sure that the all the adult members of the family are vaccinated against COVID-19.
In this pandemic, children alone cannot protect themselves, the adults in general play an important role in preventing the spread of the disease. The DOH reminds the public to remain vigilant and practice the infection prevention and control measures, such as wearing face mask and shield especially in public places, physical distancing, and proper hygiene to help limit the spread of the virus. Be safe to save lives. (NNC/PIA-NCR)