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Immunity - this is a word, inflicted by all cases, that young parents hear many times. What is immunity, how is it formed and how to wisely support an infant's immunity? What harms the child's immunity?

According to the encyclopaedic definition,immunityis a set of defense reactions of the organism aimed at eliminating microorganisms that are dangerous for it. This task is performed bythe immune system , also called the immune system. It is facing a real challenge - not only does it have to effectively combat dangerous viruses and bacteria, but at the same time recognize and tolerate harmless factors or factors necessary for proper functioning, such as immune antibodies. This is why its structure is extremely complicated. It is made up of cooperating organs, tissues, cells and chemical molecules. Among them is the lymphatic system (thymus, bone marrow, spleen, lymph nodes), but also the skin and mucous membranes, and even blood components (leukocytes) and bacteria living in the digestive tract.

How is immunity shaped?

The immune system begins to form at the beginning of fetal life. In its second month, the spleen and thymus begin to develop, and then lymphocytes appear in the blood of the fetus. At the end of the third month of fetal life, other components of the immune system appear: T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes, and M, D, G and A antibodies. At the time of birth, this system is still immature. However - so that the toddler would not be completely defenseless at the beginning - nature allowed that some of the antibodies necessary for defense against microbes, via the placenta, were obtained from the mother. These are IgG immunoglobulins, i.e. the most important antibodies.


What harms immunity?

Immunity has its enemies, and it's not about microbes. The immune system is impaired:

  • overuse of antibiotics
  • smoking in front of a child - chemical compounds contained in cigarette smoke reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood and disrupt the functioning of the lungs
  • frequent diarrhea that depletes the natural intestinal bacterial flora, making the baby more susceptible to infections (which is why it is so important to sterilize bottles and teats and carefully wash your hands).

Apart from them, the newborn also has its ownantibodies, IgM (whose task is to stop harmful microorganisms in the first phase of infection, before enough IgG antibodies are produced). This peculiar defensive army is called temporary passive immunity. Temporary, because in the first three months of lifethe babygradually loses the immunoglobulins provided by the mother. Passive, because the child's body is not yet able to produce IgG antibodies in an amount sufficient to defend itself. This period may last until 12-18. month of age and is referred to as the "immune gap". It is only from the second half of the child's life that the immune system begins to produce IgG. Their number is systematically growing, but only at the age of about 15 it is close to the value that occurs in adults. This means that the child may be sick frequently until then.

Infant immunity: the benefits of getting sick

Don't let it worry you, because being ill strengthens the child's natural immunity. This is because infections teach the immune system how to deal with microbes. Scientists have long figured out this process. The immune system has a very good memory and learns from experience. When dangerous bacteria enter the body and do any harm to it, the immune system remembers it and when they attack them again, it knows that they are dangerous and can fight them. This mechanism is used in vaccination. Vaccines contain weakened or killed microorganisms (and sometimes only parts of them) which, when introduced into the body, are then recognized by the immune system. It begins to produce immune antibodies that destroy the aggressor, as well as the so-called cells. Immune memory, which on the next contact with a virus or bacteria already known to them, recognize the enemy and stimulate the immune system to function, thus preventing the development of the disease. Diseases are necessary, but it is better for the child not to get sick too often. Not only because the boss will look askance when you put another release on his desk. Too short breaks between successive infections do not allow for the efficient regeneration of the immune system. Therefore, it is worth strengthening immunity. The best method is breastfeeding, because the breast milk contains many ingredients that help protect your baby from falling ill.

The infant's immunity will be strengthened by the diet

Milk contains a lot of immunoglobulin A, which prevents infections by covering the intestinal mucosa with a thin film, which prevents harmful bacteria from accumulating on it and penetrating into the bloodstream. If a nursing mom isIf she has a cold, her milk also contains antibodies that protect the baby against viruses that caused an infection in mum. However, one of the most valuable components of breast milk are prebiotic oligosaccharides - complex sugars. They are not broken down by digestive enzymes, so they enter the intestines, where they are a breeding ground for probiotics - good intestinal bacteria that stimulate the immune system and inhibit the growth of pathogenic microorganisms. There is also lactoferrin in it, which takes iron from microbes, which prevents their development. If you cannot breastfeed, give your baby (after consulting the pediatrician) milk supplemented with prebiotics or probiotics. If you've already started to expand his diet, be sure to add beta-carotene-rich vegetables such as carrots and pumpkin to your soups. Beta-carotene is responsible for the proper functioning of the mucous membranes, which are the body's first protective barrier against pathogenic microbes.

Resistance - important hardening from the cradle

Diet is not the only way to support immunity, and summer is a good time to implement all other methods. The most effective are:

  • A daily walk of at least one hour in a clean environment from exhaust fumes. Thanks to walks, the body is properly oxygenated, and therefore functions better. It is also of great importance that the baby's immune system comes into contact with various microorganisms and learns to react to them. Important: you have to go for a walk even when it is raining or cold.
  • Water quenching. If your baby is over six months old, you can end the bath with a cooler (but not cold) shower for a few seconds. The point is for the body to learn to respond to sudden changes in temperature. You can also alternate warm and cooler foot baths for your baby. They should last no longer than two or three minutes and end up with cool water. After such treatment, put on warm socks for your child.
  • Climate change is a training for the immune system. An organism that has to adapt to new conditions mobilizes all forces, including the immune system. It is best to go with the baby for at least three weeks - during the first two weeks, the body gets used to the new conditions, and only then begins to respond well to a different climate. With your baby you can go to the mountains and the sea.
  • Frequent airing of the room. The temperature around the baby should be 19-22ºC. When it is higher, there is less moisture in the air, so the mucous membranes in the baby's mouth and nose dry out and are no longer as effective as a protective shield against microbes. Besides, freshthe air blows out the germs.

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