Once school year starts and cool weather follows shortly after, kids are frequently exposed to some “bug” or the other at school.  Keeping this in mind, I am sharing here the back-to-school immune support strategy that I use for my own kids to best support their immune health.

Start the day right with a balanced meal

This may sound like a general advice but eating a balanced meal for breakfast with higher concentration of protein is important for healthy immune function. On the other hand, excess sugar consumption leads to reduced immune function.

Swap the bagel or the highly processed cereal out and instead have the kids eat organic meat or plant-based protein foods such as legumes, nuts or seeds with some vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Some days when the kids are rushing out the door or not too hungry to eat a proper meal, a protein shake comes in handy. This protein shake can be made with store bought protein such as pea protein or better yet, make it your own with kitchen staples- with fruits, yogurt or nut/seed butter and milk or non-dairy beverages. (Please note that a protein shake should not be used regularly to replace a well-balanced meal).

Age specific Kids’ Multi-vitamin

A well balance nutrient rich diet is important to build a strong immune system. But ensuring that your child is getting all the necessary nutrients daily may not always be easy especially if your child is a picky eater. And when it comes to immune health, there are specific nutrients such as vitamin A, C, D and zinc which act like building blocks for the immune system. Need for these nutrients increases when the immune system is challenged.

Vitamin A supports healthy immune development and function. This vitamin also aids proper functioning of the lining of the respiratory and Gastrointestinal tract, hence strengthening the body’s first line of defense against infection.

“Even good things can become bad if excessive” rings true especially when it comes to vitamin A. When taken in excess, there are potential long-term effects especially affecting liver. Several foods such as green leafy vegetables, carrots, red peppers, sweet potato, pumpkin, other orange- and yellow-colored vegetables and fruits have high amounts of beta carotene, which is a type of vitamin A called provitamin A.

Provitamin A needs to be converted in the body to become Vitamin A, and the enzymes in the body can only do a limited amount of conversion. Keeping this is mind, it is better for children to get their vitamin A from food sources. And if taken as part of a multivitamin supplement, make sure it is age appropriate for the child.


Zinc sources of food

Zinc is a vital mineral when it comes to immune health. It helps develop different types of immune cells as well as improve function. As much as zinc supports a robust immune response when facing an unwanted organism, it helps to gently apply the brake on the immune system after the initial response, to stop the immune reaction from spiraling “out of control”, causing inflammation and damage.

Seafood especially shellfish, nuts, seeds and legumes are good sources of zinc. Age appropriate kids multivitamin usually contains zinc.

Vitamin D

The Sunshine vitamin “Vitamin D”

Vitamin D is an important nutrient for proper functioning of the immune system and when there is deficiency of vitamin D, there is increased susceptibility to infection. Studies have shown that low vitamin D level is associated with increased risk of respiratory diseases such as asthma as well as upper respiratory tract infections caused by bacteria or viruses.

Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is naturally made by our skin from sun exposure, so we get sufficient levels of vitamin D from April to September when we spend time outdoors. Come fall and winter during peak flu and cold season, Vitamin D levels tend to become low due to insufficient sun exposure.

There are few food sources of vitamin D such as oily fish and eggs.

Unless you live in one of the sun belt states, your vitamin D levels will become low in winter due to low sun exposure, so supplementing with vitamin D at least in winter may be the best option. On average 400IU-1000IU of vitamin D per day should be sufficient for most children.  As excess Vitamin D levels can lead to hypercalcemia (excess calcium and the health issues that come with it), it is better to check vitamin D levels, using a standard lab test to know if vitamin D supplementing is needed and the amount that is appropriate.

Vitamin C

Food sources of C

Vitamin C is well known for its immune support function. Supplementing or increasing vitamin C intake will not stop you from catching a cold but it can help reduce symptoms and quicken the recovery period.

Citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, yellow peppers are some of the many foods high in vitamin C.  

Generally, when my children appear to be coming down with a cold or the sniffles, I supplement their diet with vitamin C in the range of 200 – 500 mg two to three times per day, and the amount varies based on their weight.   As this is a water-soluble vitamin and there is a limit on maximum absorption at a time, the divided dosing of vitamin C is more helpful.

To read more about sources of vitamin C, read my bog by clicking on the link below


Probiotics are combination of good bacteria and other live organisms that are naturally present in the gut. As a large part of the immune system is present in the Gastrointestinal tract, probiotics help support the immune system by maintaining a healthy balance in the gut flora.

Yogurt and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi are good sources of probiotics. It can also be taken in supplement form. Although there are many beneficial strains of probiotics, when it comes to immune health, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains are more important.



For centuries, elderberry has been used as a folk remedy to treat flu and cold symptoms. Both the flower and the berries support a healthy immune response especially in the mucous membrane of the upper respiratory tract. The berries have additional antiviral properties.

Two study results showed that elderberry extract reduced duration of flu symptoms by 4 days. A separate study later contradicted the previous findings. So the effect of elderberry extract on influenza is not determined, requiring further research.

But there is no doubt about the positive effect on supporting the immune system. Additionally, it is packed with antioxidants. So elderberry syrup can be taken frequently during the winter months.

The information and other content provided in this blog are for information purpose only, and not intended and should not be considered as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider before you make any changes to your diet or lifestyle.


Aranow C. Vitamin D and the immune system. J Investig Med. 2011;59(6):881-886. doi:10.2310/JIM.0b013e31821b8755

Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004;32(2):132-140. doi:10.1177/147323000403200205

Macknin M, Wolski K, Negrey J, Mace S. Elderberry Extract Outpatient Influenza Treatment for Emergency Room Patients Ages 5 and Above: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. J Gen Intern Med. 2020;35(11):3271-3277. doi:10.1007/s11606-020-06170-w