The immune system is composed of immature cells present in the bone marrow. These cells require adequate amount of cytokines and other chemically active substances to grow into various types of mature immune cells (Phagocytes, T-cells and B-cells). However, if the immature stem cells don’t respond normally to cytokines then a person suffers from low or hyperactive immunity. Many researchers have highlighted the fact that low immunity is more common than overactive immunity. The immature stem cells in bone marrow grow at a rapid pace during early childhood years, but if for any reason, these cells don’t grow at the expected rate, a child is said to have low immunity. A child with a weak immune system becomes more prone to infectious and other critical diseases (World Health Organization, 2011).1
If not diagnosed at the right time, low immunity can also have fatal consequences. This is the reason that a number of researchers emphasize timely diagnosis and right treatment for low immunity in children. This blog post aims at guiding parents to figure out the symptoms of low immunity and highlighting some effective ways to strengthen the immune system of children.
How the Immune System Functions?
Fair (2009)2 in the research elaborated the structure and function of the immune system. The study explains that the immune network consists of spleen, active bone marrow cells and lymph nodes. All these elements function in collaboration to shield vital organs from potentially harmful infections and viruses. However, a number of people don’t know that the immune system consists of two parts: active system and passive system. The immune system that consists of lymph nodes and stem cells is called as active system because these cells are produced by human body. However, during pregnancy, the mother’s body generates a special type of white blood cells called antibodies, which are transferred from the mother to the baby. These antibodies constitute passive immune system, because they cannot be reproduced by the human body.
Antibodies along with active immune cells are responsible for fighting potentially harmful infections and germs. For proper functioning of the immune system, it is important that the immune receptors are able to differentiate between the harmful and harmless bodies. A weak immune system, on the other hand, cannot recognize foreign and harmful bodies and therefore cannot protect vital organs from infectious attacks.
Initial Symptoms of Low Immunity
Fair suggested that for proper treatment and timely diagnosis, it is very important for parents to have adequate knowledge about the symptoms of low immunity in children. Here is a list of common indicators of low immunity:
· Fatigue- A child with a weak immune system has low stamina.
· Frequent Infectious Diseases- The author says that if a child needs frequent courses of antibiotics then he/she probably has a weak immune system.
· Slow Healing- Slow wound healing is another indicator of low immunity.
· Allergic Reactions- Skin, food or respiratory allergies also indicate that the child’s immune system is not functioning properly.
Low Immunity Diseases in Children
IWK Center (2012)3 listed some diseases and disorders that are commonly encountered by children with low immunity:
· Allergies- Allergies are caused by a hyperactive immune system. Usually immune receptors misidentify harmless foreign bodies as infections or viruses and trigger allergic reactions.
· Asthma- Asthma is also a respiratory allergic reaction characterized by inflammation of the breathing tract.
· Immune Thrombocytopenia- This is a low immunity disorder caused by a lack of leukocytes. Thrombocytopenia is characterized by purple patches that appear on the skin due to internal bleeding.
Ways to Strengthen the Immune System
Zagoren (2014)4 mentioned that the following nutrients can help parents strengthen the immune system of their children:
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids effectively neutralize the active chemicals produced by a hypersensitive immune system. Apart from controlling the over-activity of the immune system, fatty acids can also facilitate the production of white blood cells and defense cells. Raw salmons and green herbs are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is effective in decelerating the rate of decay of antibodies. Moreover, it can also increase the number of WBCs in the blood. Vitamin C can be found in abundance in juicy fruits like oranges.
Zinc can increase the number of platelets, thus facilitating quick wound healing. For small children, fortified cereals are the best source of zinc.
Apart from a balanced diet, therapies and medication are also very important in preventing a child from low immunity disorders. Moreover, it is also very important for parents to deal with chronic diseases in children with strong nerves. This is the reason that psychologists recommend therapies and counseling sessions to parents to help them cope with the stressful situation strategically (National Institutes of Health, 2012).5
1. The World Health Organization. (2011). Immune Diseases and Children. Children's Health and the Environment. WHO Training Package for the Health Sector.
2. Fair L. (2009). Signs of a Weak Immune System in Children.
3. IWK Center. (2012). Immunosuppression: Protecting Your Child from Infection when the Immune System is Lowered.
4. Zagoren K. (2014). Foods That Boost the Immune System in Children.
5. National Institute of Health. (2012). What is Immune Thrombocytopenia?