Your teen's immune system protects him against bacterial infections, viruses and other infectious invaders. If it stops functioning properly, your child becomes vulnerable to potentially serious illnesses. Unfortunately, teens are known for many bad habits that contribute to immune system dysfunction, including skipping meals and staying up too late. If you are concerned about your teen's health or immune functioning, or if your child seems unwell more often than other kids his age, consult a doctor for advice.
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Feed your teen a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of lean protein sources, low-fat dairy foods, whole grain breads and fresh fruits and vegetables. Teens require a higher intake of calcium and iron than most people of other age groups, so plan your household menu with this in mind. Don't forget sources of healthy fats, such as nuts, coldwater fish and avocado.
Supplement with a multivitamin if you have any concerns about your teen's diet. Due to rapid growth and poor eating habits at school, even teenagers who eat healthy meals at breakfast and dinner are at risk for certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Speak with your child's pediatrician or consult a nutritionist if you have specific concerns.
Include onions, garlic, berries, mushrooms and beans in your teen's daily diet. These foods may all help boost the immune system, according to Joel Fuhrman, M.D. Yogurt with live active cultures is also beneficial to the immune system and helps support intestinal health.
Insist that your teenager turn off the computer, video games or television and go to bed on time. Teens generally need more sleep than adults and younger children, according to the National Sleep Foundation, with the average teenager requiring more than nine hours each night for optimal health. Lack of sleep stresses the body and can weaken the immune system. Enforce your teen's bedtime and give him some extra time on weekends to shrink his sleep deficit.
Encourage physical activity and stress-reducing activities to strengthen the immune system. If your teen isn't involved in organized sports, enroll him in a summer swimming program or schedule active family outings, such as hikes and bike rides. As a bonus, your whole family will benefit from the time together.
Speak with your teen about alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Using any of these substances impairs the immune system's ability to do its job. These substances are also harmful for other reasons.