Are you ready to send your child back to school after lockdown? This is the critical time for boosting your child’s immunity. As in the wake of coronavirus, several schools and colleges have been shut in many parts of the world to contain the spread of COVID-19. In 2021, with the ensuing decline in the number of cases and the much-awaited administration of vaccines, schools across India (closed since March 2020) are officially looking to reopen their doors with new rules.
Many parents around the country are facing the decision on whether to send their children to school now. Some parents are ready to settle for online education for their children and don't want to expose their families to the risk of COVID-19 infection. Some others want the kids to get back to learning and playing in person, away from the screens.
While schools are taking several precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of their learners and staff, there is still considerable uncertainty about “getting back to normal” and by necessity, parents are being ultra-cautious. Back-to-school often means back-to-school bugs and as kids head back to the classroom, maintaining a strong immune system throughout the school year seems more important than ever right now for your kids.
Ayurveda focuses on health maintenance by boosting and balancing immunity. Ayurveda has bestowed us with a spectrum of immune supporting practices, to enhance overall health, growth, and keep diseases at bay. Also several herbs has been used in paediatric practice over thousand years to strengthen the immune system and support the health of children of all ages in a safe and holistic manner.
Here are several Ayurvedic measures for maintaining a strong immune system of your child throughout the school year.
Abhyanga (Self-massage with oil)
Abhyanga (self-massage) can help to keep your child’s immune system performing at its peak. Gently rub the little ones with sesame or coconut oil for approx. 10 to 15 minutes. Older children (as of approx. 8 years of age) and teenagers can do the massage themselves. Performing abhyanga on daily bases or at least thrice a week helps to increase the immune system's cytotoxic capacity (the activity level of the body's natural "killer cells") and decrease the number of T-cells, which improves the body's immune functioning overall.
Snana (warm baths)
According to Ayurveda, it is very important to take bath with warm water in the morning and evening in order to calm the body cells and help in their regeneration and health. Get a habit to your child of bathing daily with warm water, if needed epsom salt and warming essential oils like ginger, tulsi, clove, cinnamon and neem etc. can be added to boost immunity to great levels. Daily bath stimulates the lymphatic system and white blood cell production. It also helps to clear surface bacteria and prevent infection.
Yoga asanas and Pranayama
Practising Yogasana and Pranayama amongst kids is as important as it is for adults. It enhances their immune system by synchronising their minds and body. Daily practice of Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) and Setu Bhandasana (Bridge Pose) stimulates their thymus gland is the locus of the immune system and reduces circulating pro-inflammatory mediators like cytokine. Also Practicing of Pranayama increases oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function.
Aahar (Balance and nutritive diet)
Using Ayurveda as a template for feeding your child doesn’t mean the food has to be of Indian descent, nor does it mean it needs to be ethnic. Ayurveda is all about balance and nutrition. You should include leafy green vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains in daily diet of your child. Encourage use of digestive spices like garlic, ginger, cinnamon, clove, fennel and foods like gur (jaggery), ghee and dry fruits as they are highly nutritive and immune stimulating.
Daily give your child milk or decoction infused with turmeric and tulsi as its rich in antioxidants like polyphenols and proanthocyanidins that give a boost to their immune system by activating the production of T-cells.
Vihar (lifestyle changes)
Staying indoors can have a negative impact on your child’s immune health. The immune system works best when challenged regularly. Children should be active for an hour every day, and getting outside to play is one way. Outdoor light stimulates the pineal gland. This part of the brain is vital to keeping our immune system strong and making us feel happier.
Teach your children to not suppress or hold on the natural urges. Create a regular time for your child to empty bowels.
Nidra (Adequate Sleep)
Sleep deprivation suppresses the functionality of the immune system (When we are sleep deprived our natural immune cells, or T cells, go down, and inflammatory cytokines go up), which makes children susceptible to infections. Adequate sleep is an absolute necessity to rejuvenate the body. Newborns need up to 18 hours of sleep a day, toddlers require 12 to 13 hours, and preschoolers need about 10 hours of sleep.
Swarna Prashna (Ayurvedic immunization)
Swarna Prashana is an ancient Ayurvedic practice adopted to increase immunity, psychological and physical development in children starting from new-borns till tweens up to the age of 16. In this process swarna bhasma (gold ash) is mixed with honey and medicated ghee (the herbal formulation of the ghee contains brahmi,vacha and shankupushpi) is administer on pushya nakshta of every month.
Herbs (Natural immune support)
Despite taking proper care, children's immunity may be affected. Consumption of herbal dietary supplements (syrup) of Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Draksha (Vitis vinifera), Sida cordifolia (Bala) and Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) can help children stay healthier as they help to build immunity.
Herbs like Guduchi, Yashtimadhu and Amlaki are natural sources of antioxidants, while the antimicrobial property of Yashtimadhu helps to prevent respiratory infections. The nutritive property of Draksha, Shatavari and Bala nourishes body tissues and increases cellular defence against various infective diseases.
A combination of these immune boosting herbs may be a safe and effective adjuvant to antimicrobials in the management of recurrent infections in children. When co-prescribed with antibiotics, herbs may have a role in faster recovery, reduces the duration of therapy, besides preventing reinfections.
Ayurveda is a treasure that has described so many measures as an immunity booster to maintain health and to combat disease. As kids head back to the classroom, an Ayurvedic routine will definitely help balancing and boosting their immunity, while enhancing their innate capacity to grow, heal, and thrive in the world.