Search IconSearch

5 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Immune System for Life

Common sense steps can give your child a healthy start

5 Ways to Boost Your Child's Immune System for Life

We all want to protect our kids whether it be from falls, bumps and bruises — or avoidable infections and diseases. To help your child avoid illness, it’s important to encourage good habits and take steps to boost their immune system from an early age.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

“Most of what makes a child’s immune system strong is common sense,” says pediatrician Adriane Lioudis, MD. If you keep these five tips in mind, you’ll stack the deck in your child’s favor for a healthier life.

1. For newborns, consider breastfeeding

While it’s a very personal decision (that isn’t always possible), if you are able to exclusively breastfeed your child for at least six months, it may have benefits. Some research shows that breastfeeding your child might possibly reduce allergies, Dr. Lioudis says.

2. Promote regular hand washing

Eighty percent of infections are spread by touch. Teach your little one to take the time to wash their hands after sneezing, coughing and going to the bathroom. Washing hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds can remove bacteria and viruses and can reduce the chance of lung infections by up to 45%.

3. Don’t skip immunizations

Follow your pediatrician’s advice when it comes to the childhood vaccination schedule. Immunizations start in infancy and continue to adulthood and prevent measles, mumps, chickenpox, rotavirus and other infections.

“Get the flu shot for your child yearly, as well,” Dr. Lioudis says. This is particularly important for children with asthma and other chronic health conditions.

Also, if your family will be traveling internationally, it’s important to seek advice from your child’s healthcare provider about any needed vaccinations.

4. Make sleep a priority

To maximize immunity, children must get enough sleep.

Sleep requirements for each night vary by age:

  • Babies between 0 and 3 months need 14 to 17 hours of sleep. Those between 4 and 12 months need 12 to 16 hours of sleep.
  • Children between the ages of 1 and 2 need between 11 and 14 hours.
  • Kids between the ages of 3 and 5 should get from10 to 13 hours.
  • Children ages 6 to 12 should get between 9 and 12 hours.
  • Teens between the ages of 13 to 18 need 8 to 10 hours.

Not getting enough sleep limits the body’s ability to produce proteins called cytokines that help fight infection and reduce inflammation.


5. Encourage a healthy diet

healthy diet is also important for your child’s immune system.

Dr. Lioudis recommends encouraging your child to “eat the rainbow” when it comes to fruits and vegetables. A good selection of whole grains should be part of their diet as well. Keep processed foods to a minimum. Proper food choices can help ensure that your child gets enough vitamins — such as vitamin A and E. These vitamins are needed to maintain good health and a strong immune system.

You can’t avoid all illness, but some kids need extra protection

“Even if you follow these tips, your child might still get between seven and 11 colds each year,” says Dr. Lioudis. She adds that you can expect each one to last up to two weeks.

Also, keep in mind that some things billed as common “remedies” aren’t effective in boosting immunity. For example, there’s no definitive proof that large amounts of vitamin C or echinacea help prevent colds or shorten them, she says.

However, if your child has a compromised immune system, work closely with your pediatrician to find ways to improve his or her immunity. Each child needs a personalized approach because their individual immune system varies, Dr. Lioudis says.

“There’s generally a different protocol with immunocompromised children. There are some vaccines we have to add in on top of what most children have, but it’s something that we must determine on a case-by-case basis.”


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Adult male hunched over blowing his nose into a tissue
Is Your Immune System Working Overtime?

An overactive immune system can be just as serious as one that stops working

Powdered greens in a container, with powdered green smoothies and blueberries
March 11, 2024/Nutrition
Powdered Greens: Do They Really Work?

The supplement shouldn’t replace a healthy diet, but it can help you get in your fruits and veggies

fire cider in a mason jar
Fire Cider: What Is It? And Can It Prevent Illness?

This spicy concoction can do more harm than good, upsetting your stomach and causing painful acid reflux

person holding a thermometer with stress thought bubbles above head
November 30, 2023/Rheumatology & Immunology
Yes, There Is Such a Thing as Stress Sickness

From nausea, weight gain and eczema, stress can affect your immune system in many ways

Closeup of vials of vaccines in background with one being punctured by a vaccine needle in foreground.
July 5, 2023/Infectious Disease
How Are Vaccines Developed and How Do They Work?

They can stop an infection before it gets you sick or prevent you from becoming seriously sick

A piece of salmon sits on a cutting board surrounded by avocados, olive oil and various nuts.
11 Foods That Boost Your Immune System

Options like fatty fish, citrus fruits and almonds can help keep you well and heal you faster

Older woman prepares healthy drink with immune boosting ingredients.
November 16, 2022/Nutrition
5 Vitamins That Are Best for Boosting Your Immunity

Eat your fill of vitamins C, B6 and E, plus zinc and selenium

A child holds up an orange with milk, strawberries and a green banana displayed in the background.
September 8, 2022/Diet, Food & Fitness
How To Build Up Your Kid’s Immune System

Eat the right foods, and get plenty of sleep and exercise

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims