Children who often fall ill, can be disturbed from the optimal growth and development process. That is why, it is important to pay attention to the immunity of children who can help maintain good health.
The immune system or often also called the body’s immunity, is the body’s defense against harmful organisms and germs. The immune system is the result of cooperation from a series of cells, tissues, proteins, and organs of the body.
Malfunctioning of the immune system can cause four special conditions that interfere with children’s health, namely:
- Allergic reactions are excessive reactions of the immune system to factors / compounds that are considered foreign and dangerous. Allergic reactions due to disorders of the immune system can trigger asthma, eczema, and allergies to various allergens such as drugs, food, and the environment.
- Autoimmune disorders. Conditions where the immune system attacks healthy organs and body tissues because they are considered foreign objects. This condition occurs in lupus, scleroderma, and arthritis in children.
- Immunodeficiency disorders. Conditions where a part of the immune system disappears or does not function, also called immune deficiency. Examples of diseases due to immune deficiency include IgA deficiency, namely immunoglobulin A deficiency which is an antibody substance in saliva and other body fluids and Chediak-Higashi syndrome, which is the inability of neutrophil white blood cells to carry out their duties as germ-eaters.
- Cancer of the immune system. Two types of cancer that are related to the immune system are white blood cell cancer or leukemia which often occurs in children and lymphoma which is cancer that appears in the lymphatic system.
The immune system is formed since the beginning of life, namely in the womb. This immune system will continue to develop with age. That is why babies and children appear to be more often affected by infections or illness, when compared to teenagers or adults. The reason, the immune system in infants and children are still learning to recognize and protect the body from incoming germs. Whereas in adolescents and adults, the body’s immune system has immediately recognized the type of germ and immediately attacked it once the germ entered the body.
Newborns have the support of the immune system through breast milk (ASI) which first came out or called colostrum. Colostrum contains immunoglobulin A (IgA) which is able to protect the baby’s body from germs. How, by forming a protective tissue in the intestine, nose, and throat.
When breastfeeding, the baby gets antibodies and other protective factors from the mother’s body. These two things will strengthen the immune system. This will help fight infections and various diseases such as diarrhea, ear and respiratory infections, and meningitis. Nursing babies are also protected from asthma, obesity, allergies, diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) syndrome.
Breastfeeding protection continues even after the breastfeeding period is over. Research shows that babies who are breastfed have a lower risk of cancer because, supposedly, babies are supported by a good immune system. In addition, breast milk can also prevent diseases obtained in the future such as type 1 and 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and inflammation of the intestine, even high blood pressure that can attack someone in their teens.
In general, a low immune system can cause disruption of the child’s growth and development process, which may be accompanied by lung disease. Impaired immune function can also trigger allergies, (including asthma and eczema on the skin), or sensitivity to dust, weather, food, and certain drugs.
In the case of children infected with HIV (a viral disease that weakens the body’s immune system), it is also generally accompanied by a failure to develop. Signs of severe malnutrition, body weight does not increase despite intake, late talking, or if children reach school age will find it difficult to concentrate and remember. The HIV virus attacks not only the body’s immune system but also affects the central nervous system, namely the brain.
Supporting Nutrition Intake
The immune system depends on what is inserted into the stomach, so it is important to maintain the intake of nutrients that can support the immune system. The study says, the condition of malnutrition may be more susceptible to infection.
There are several nutrients that are considered important for the immune system. For example vitamin A will help avoid infection and maintain mucosal tissue. In addition, there is evidence from studies on mice, vitamins B2 and B6 are useful for increasing resistance to bacterial infections and preventing a decrease in the immune system response.
The role of vitamin C is still being studied, but is thought to be able to support other nutrients to improve the immune system. Meanwhile, vitamin D is known to be able to function as an antimicrobial in tuberculosis.
Two minerals that are no less important for the immune system are zinc and selenium. Research suggests that zinc is directly related to cell function in the immune system. Meanwhile, selenium deficiency is associated with the risk of bladder, breast, intestine, lung, and prostate cancer.
Give children a variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts, and lean meat to support the immune system. Yogurt that contains lots of useful bacteria called probiotics, can also help the body fight diseases such as colds, ear infections, and strep throat. Cow’s milk is also very good for the children’s immune system because it contains not only calcium, but also protein, vitamin A, and several types of vitamin B.
Give ASI early in the child’s life to protect your baby from germs and various infections that attack. Do not forget to provide balanced nutritional intake to perfect the child’s immune system so that optimal growth and development.