Health and immunity are the keywords in life when we speculate about ourselves and especially, our children. Immunity, besides being genetic, mostly depends on what we eat, where we live, the air we breathe and the habits we acquire. It is a known fact that while we are being technologically advanced with each decade, even each day, the biosphere where we reside is deteriorating at a faster rate than we know of. I was born in the late 20th century, in a more polluted environment than my parents were born decades earlier. Since the ’90s, global warming and massive pollution have poisoned the world for children these days. Most of us are cognizant of the fact that India ranks quite high in being one of the most polluted countries in the world. Frankly, do we even need any index to prove so? Each of us can feel and are compelled to breathe in the malicious air every time we step out of our homes. Immunity is heavily dependent on pollution, among other factors. It is upto us to adopt correct measures and build a healthy and immune India for the future generations. Let’s take a look at what we can do:
What is Immunity?
A sneak peak into the coveted word used very often these days – the immune system in our body is made up of a complex network of cells, tissues and organs which work together to protect us against germs and harmful organisms. When a foreign body like antigen enters the body, these cells get together to build antibodies, which are specialized proteins to attack the invaders. These antibodies actually remember their antagonistic antigens and fight them every time. Humans have 3 types of immunity – innate (the one we are born with), adaptive (the one we develop while growing up) and passive (temporarily provided by external factors like breast milk or medicines).
Steps we can follow –
As an individual:
Since we can’t alter our innate immunity, we can at least try and develop our adaptive and passive immunity to stay healthy. Children are obviously more susceptible to germs and are vulnerable to all kinds of diseases. It is our responsibility to introduce them to correct food and habits. Here are a few steps we can follow:
1. Breast feeding an infant – Breast milk contains immunity-enhancing antibodies and white blood cells. It is considered to be preventive against an array of diseases at infancy like pneumonia and meningitis. Breast milk provides the temporary passive immunity an infant needs during the first year.
2. Proper food and sleep – Eating and sleeping on time can do wonders for kids. It also builds a great habit in them which is necessary throughout their lives. Sleep deprivation can make children susceptible to more illnesses. So we must ensure correct hours of sleep according to their growing age.
3. Fresh fruits and vegetables – Fruits provide most of the antioxidants and amino acids that children need. Coloured vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, capsicums contain carotene and lycopene. Citrus fruits provide most of the vitamins including vitamin C which is a great immunity booster.
4. Washing hands – This is one habit yet to gain popularity among Indian parents and kids alike. Most of us have a tendency to ignore a hand wash and rub our hands clean against our clothes. It doesn’t work. The hands retain the germs, as well as the clothes. Children should be taught to wash their hands before and after every meal, visits to the toilets, playgrounds and anywhere outside home. An ideal hand wash requires about 20 seconds.
5. Exercise and sports – With increasing number of skyscrapers and industries all around scraping playgrounds, children are losing all opportunities to games and exercise. Encourage your children to try sports in their schools and housing complexes.
6. Dietary supplements – Health drinks are not very recommended these days as they contain synthetic elements, though once in a while they are good to change the kids’ tastes. India has the luxury of providing herbal and completely natural supplements like Dabur Chyawanprash. It provides 3 times more immunity to children that helps fight virus, flu and infections through its Ayurvedic ingredients.
As a Country:
Not only as individuals protecting our own children at home, India needs to ensure quite a few measures which can help improve the health and immunity of all children.
1. Anti pollution laws and measures – The laws are there, but they are mostly ineffective as the authorities forget to be strict with everyone. The Government could ensure CNG and minimize the use of petrol and diesel to reduce pollution. The traffic police should be stricter in checking vehicles not following fuel and emission guidelines.
2. Sanitation – Proper measures should be implemented to improve public sanitation and drainage systems, especially in slums. It is appalling the way Government and political parties neglect health issues of children living in the slums and below poverty line.
3. Eradicating malnutrition and diseases – Providing meals and medicines to underprivileged children can help build a better health in them. Fatal diseases in children are still prevalent in India, though Small Pox has been successfully eradicated from the country. Meningitis, typhoid and tuberculosis carve away a lot of immunity from children. Providing correct medicines and food can help them recover and be stronger.
4. Afforestation – Pollution is the main reason in 21st century to attack the immune system of children. Increasing construction of buildings and deforestation cause a huge level of pollution along with vehicle emissions. The big cities in India mostly need more trees to be planted along the roads and rivers to prevent pollution and soil erosion. This has an indirect effect in building good health in children, rendering them free of fatal diseases.
All we want is ourselves and our children to stay fit and healthy. But we often miss out the points and fail to ponder upon and follow a few easy (and difficult) steps which could build a faster, higher and stronger generation.
Fact sources: Parents.com , Kidshealth.org