This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
As we head into the cold and flu season, parents are always looking for ways to keep children healthy. We know that as the weather changes, kids spend more time inside. With less fresh air means more germs that not only impact the kids – but end up affecting your health too!
The first line of defense against germs and viruses is a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and plenty of exercise. A diet rich in phytonutrients from colorful fruits and vegetables combined with high-quality protein and low sugar sets the foundation for a healthy immune system. All the supplements in the world won’t keep you healthy if your diet is lacking vital nutrients—but food paired with the right supplements are a powerful combo.
These seven nourishing vitamins and herbs are excellent ways to give your child’s body an extra boost to help ward off illness or shorten severity and duration.
1. Vitamin C. There is a reason that vitamin C comes to everyone’s mind as a no-brainer for keeping kids healthy. Studies show that taking vitamin C daily for prevention can significantly decrease the duration and severity of cold symptoms in adults and children. Vitamin C is also essential for the proper absorption of iron from the diet, another necessary nutrient for immunity. Foods rich in Vitamin C include citrus, bell peppers, and broccoli but adding an additional supplement daily during the cold season is helpful to meet additional needs.
2. Goji berries. Although they are technically a fruit, goji berry extracts are often used in supplement form to provide extra immune support. Also known as wolfberries, goji berries have many health claims behind their use in traditional medicine. Goji berries are high in phytonutrients that can act as antioxidants in the body. They are also good sources of vitamin C and vitamin A, both needed for optimal immune health.
3. Probiotics. As most of our immune cells are found in the gut, it shouldn’t be a surprise that supporting the GI tract’s health is critical for a robust immune system. There are thousands of bacteria strains in our body, but several have shown to be especially powerful when it comes to the prevention of cold symptoms. Lactobacillus, which is one of the most common bacteria found in our gut, has been shown to reduce the number of days a child misses from daycare or school due to colds and decreases in fever and cough symptoms. It is crucial to find a brand specifically designed for children or infants to get the correct dosage for children under the age of twelve. You can also include fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, or 24-hour fermented yogurts to increase their beneficial bacteria intake.
4. Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a critical nutrient for immune health. Without adequate vitamin D, certain immune cells can’t initiate the proper immune response. One study found that newborn infants with low levels of vitamin D were much more likely to have upper respiratory or ear infections by three months than babies with adequate levels. Another study found that children who supplemented with vitamin D during winter months were 58 percent less likely to get sick with the flu than placebo. Sunshine is the primary vitamin D source, so supplementation becomes essential as we get much less sun during the winter months and food sources are very limited.
5. Echinacea. A flowering herb used for immune support and upregulation, echinacea has studies backing its use to prevent respiratory infections in children. Like vitamin C, echinacea can be used to avoid colds and reduce the number of days a child is sick. A meta-analysis found that using echinacea decreased to the likelihood of someone getting sick with a cold by 58 percent. It appears to work by promoting the body to boost the production of white blood cells that fight infections and viruses.
6. Zinc. A mineral necessary for a healthy immune system, zinc is known to reduce the risk of kids catching colds, missing school, and decreasing the need for antibiotics. Zinc can also reduce the incidence of diarrhea in children. You can find zinc in protein-rich foods like beef, beans, or even oysters, but if you have a picky child, supplementation may be a good idea. Be careful because too much zinc can cause stomach upset or even cause copper deficiency at very high levels.
7. Chamomile. While chamomile doesn’t directly impact the immune system, it is the perfect herb to calm the nervous system and help children get adequate sleep. It is known that lack of sleep impairs our immune system and makes it easier to get sick when exposed to a virus, so making sure your child is sleeping ten to twelve hours a night is essential. Chamomile may act as a mild sedative to help kids fall asleep more easily. It is safe for children and can be taken in a tea form or in a supplement.
Kids are resilient and usually get over colds quickly. But if you find yourself sick all season, try some of these supplements. You can also find combination products that include multiple ingredients to make it easy for children to take.
Always remember that before starting any supplements, you should have a conversation with your healthcare practitioner to discuss appropriate dosage and safety, especially when supplementing for children. Some supplements that boost the immune system are not suitable to use with autoimmune conditions or can interfere with medications.
Food comes first when it comes to a strong immune system, but these supplements can help give your kids a leg-up in the fight against winter viruses.
 Hemilä, Harri, and Elizabeth Chalker. “Vitamin C for Preventing and Treating the Common Cold.” The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, no. 1 (January 31, 2013): CD000980. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4.
 Hallberg, L., M. Brune, and L. Rossander. “The Role of Vitamin C in Iron Absorption.” International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research. Supplement = Internationale Zeitschrift Fur Vitamin- Und Ernahrungsforschung. Supplement 30 (1989): 103–8.
 Ma, Zheng Feei, Hongxia Zhang, Sue Siang Teh, Chee Woon Wang, Yutong Zhang, Frank Hayford, Liuyi Wang, et al. “Goji Berries as a Potential Natural Antioxidant Medicine: An Insight into Their Molecular Mechanisms of Action.” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity 2019 (January 9, 2019). https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/2437397.
 Leyer, Gregory J., Shuguang Li, Mohamed E. Mubasher, Cheryl Reifer, and Arthur C. Ouwehand. “Probiotic Effects on Cold and Influenza-like Symptom Incidence and Duration in Children.” Pediatrics 124, no. 2 (August 2009): e172-179. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2008-2666.
 Weydert, Joy A. “Vitamin D in Children’s Health.” Children 1, no. 2 (September 12, 2014): 208–26. https://doi.org/10.3390/children1020208.
 Camargo, Carlos A., Tristram Ingham, Kristin Wickens, Ravi Thadhani, Karen M. Silvers, Michael J. Epton, G. Ian Town, et al. “Cord-Blood 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels and Risk of Respiratory Infection, Wheezing, and Asthma.” Pediatrics 127, no. 1 (January 2011): e180-187. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2010-0442.
 Urashima, Mitsuyoshi, Takaaki Segawa, Minoru Okazaki, Mana Kurihara, Yasuyuki Wada, and Hiroyuki Ida. “Randomized Trial of Vitamin D Supplementation to Prevent Seasonal Influenza A in Schoolchildren.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91, no. 5 (May 2010): 1255–60. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.29094.
 Shah, Sachin A, Stephen Sander, C Michael White, Mike Rinaldi, and Craig I Coleman. “Evaluation of Echinacea for the Prevention and Treatment of the Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis.” The Lancet. Infectious Diseases 7, no. 7 (July 2007): 473–80. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(07)70160-3.
 Singh, Meenu, and Rashmi R Das. “Zinc for the Common Cold.” The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, no. 4 (April 30, 2015). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD001364.pub5.
 Mayo‐Wilson, Evan, Jean A. Junior, Aamer Imdad, Sohni Dean, Xin Hui S. Chan, Evelyn S. Chan, Aneil Jaswal, and Zulfiqar A. Bhutta. “Zinc Supplementation for Preventing Mortality, Morbidity, and Growth Failure in Children Aged 6 Months to 12 Years of Age.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, no. 5 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD009384.pub2.
 Besedovsky, Luciana, Tanja Lange, and Jan Born. “Sleep and Immune Function.” Pflugers Archiv 463, no. 1 (January 2012): 121–37. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0.
Srivastava, Janmejai K, Eswar Shankar, and Sanjay Gupta. “Chamomile: A Herbal Medicine of the Past with Bright Future.” Molecular Medicine Reports 3, no. 6 (November 1, 2010): 895–901. https://doi.org/10.3892/mmr.2010.377.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Revelation Health. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Revelation Health and associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Revelation Health encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.