COLDS and flu are facts of life around this time of the year, especially for kids.

All of us are born with an inexperienced immune system, and battle various germs and viruses as we grow and develop better immunity.

This is why children doctors (paediatricians) consider six to eight colds per year quite normal.

And it is in a school environment that germs spread more.

This is not only because school going children are in close contact with each other, but also because a child’s immune system is less mature than that of an adult, so they are naturally more susceptible to germs.

As Mzansi already feels the winter chill, people will spend more time indoors and in close proximity to each other. The viruses that cause the common cold spread easily in cold, dry air.

Our nasal passages also get dry, allowing cold viruses to make us more sick than they do during warm summer months.

Experts suggest some healthy habits to adopt to boost your child’s immunity this winter and throughout the year.

The flu vaccine offers defence against getting flu and spreading it to others. Having the vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctor’s visits, missed school days, and prevent flu-related hospitalizations and even deaths in children.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone – six months of age and older – gets a seasonal flu vaccine each year.

Healthy foods can also help strengthen your child’s immune system and help prevent colds and flu.

These include oily fish such as salmon and fresh tuna, which contain Omega-3 fatty acids that have many health benefits.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are also suggested.

Lack of sleep can make children more susceptible to illness by reducing the natural killer cells that help the immune system fight infection.