Last updated on Jun 17th, 2021 at 02:27 pm

As parents, we’re always looking for ways to keep our children healthy and happy – let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than seeing your little one struggle through a nasty cold or bout of flu. We asked some parents, whose kids rarely get sick, to share their secrets on how they prevent their little ones from getting infected with colds and flu…

Get the flu vaccine

“Don’t wait for your child to be sick before taking them to the clinic for the annual flu vaccine. I also give my child healthy foods that have enough vitamins.” – Lebohang MaKatleho Tlolane

ALSO SEE: Everything you need to know about the flu vaccine

Focus on overall health

“I let my kids walk with bare feet all the time. They also hardly eat sugar, yeast and wheat. I ensure that they drink lots of Rooibos tea and eat loads of fruit and veg. I give them a multivitamin every morning and they’re rarely sick!”  – Roshan Samsodien

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Find a vitamin supplement routine that works

“My mom used to give me a tablespoon of Scott’s Emulsion (orange flavour) while I was growing up. I hated the taste, but I only got sick once every two to three years!”  – Suraya Jeewa

“For us, what works like a bomb is to get the flu vaccine and use Viralmed and vitamin C chews daily for immune support.” – Nancy van Dyk

Opt for natural remedies

“I swear by Echinaforce drops, a multivitamin and Septoguard when my kids start to get sick!” – Laurene Oosthuizen

ALSO SEE: Top 8 natural remedies for your family

Wash and sanitise hands

“I didn’t realise that washing hands alone isn’t enough to keep all the germs at bay, because kids are always in a hurry to wash hands and don’t wash for long enough. So, I apply a small amount of hand sanitiser onto my kids’ hands afterwards – especially if we’ve been to public places.”  –Tracy Sallaway

Nutrition tips for a healthy immune system

Dr Rachael Buck, lead scientist and resident health expert at Abbott Pharmaceuticals, believes maintaining good gut health is key to keeping your child healthy all year round.

The gut is made up of around 100 trillion microbes that live on, and in, the body, specifically in the digestive system. Bacteria make up a specific type of microbe that’s found in the body. Humans have a mix of unhealthy bacteria, which can cause infections, as well as healthy bacteria that help boost immunity and aid in digestion.

“When there’s a balance between these healthy and harmful bacteria, your child’s immune system is better prepared to fight off what may come,” says Rachel. “By three years old, your child’s microbiome (microbe environment) becomes more stable. However, a fever, a course of antibiotics, or new types of foods can disrupt and change the bacterial make up in your child’s gut.” So, the question is, how do you keep your little one’s gut healthy and strong?

Rachael shares her top 5 tips:

  • Get as much skin-to-skin contact as possible in the first few weeks after your baby is born. This gives your baby the many microbes he needs to fight infections.
  • Feed your child a variety of fruits and vegetables. The more the merrier! As your baby starts eating solids, slowly introduce as many fruit and vegetable purees as you can. As your little one gets older, continue with this variety throughout the day. “In particular, bananas and asparagus are rich in prebiotics, which support probiotics—found in fermented foods like yoghurt,” says Rachael.

ALSO SEE: Does your child really need probiotics?

  • Let your child get dirty! It’s so important to let your little one explore the outdoors, which will give him a healthy dose of good bacteria, found in the environment. And only wash your child’s hands after the toilet, before and after eating and when he’s sick.
  • Get a family pet. Letting your child be exposed to a family pet such as a dog or cat will help to increase the number of healthy bacteria in your child’s system. “Studies show that safe interaction with pets can change the composition and diversity of the microbes in a child’s gut and may even reduce his risk for asthma and eczema,” adds Rachael.

ALSO SEE: Thinking of getting a pet? Here are the best dogs for kids

  • Encourage exercise. A healthy gut thrives on enough activity during the day (as exercise is also responsible for diversifying healthy bacteria in the gut). Ensure that your child gets at least 60 minutes of outdoor play and exercise a day. An indoor play space is also fine for colder winter days.