Is there anything I can do from a nutritional perspective to prevent coronavirus in child?

by | Mar 17, 2020 | 6-12 months, Birth to 6 months, Feeding Difficulties, Medical Conditions, Toddler Nutrition

I have been shocked to see on social media all of the nutritional advice and remedies proposed to “boost” your baby’s immune system to prevent corona virus. Similarly many companies have been playing on parents concern and have been marketing vitamin and mineral supplements to “help” as well. This is a new corona virus strain, so we do not have research on what works and what does not work from a nutritional perspective, although we may have a pretty good idea based on the common flu. You can certainly start by using only reliable sources for information. The WHO is great and local official health authorities (CDC in the US or the NHS in the UK) should also be regularly checked for official advice.

From a nutritional perspective from what we have learned from flu/colds, I know that I am going to bore most of you with the old healthy, balanced diet advice for child. This means ideally 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day (vitamins and minerals), 2 portions ideally of oily fish per week (for omega 3 fatty acids), daily iron rich foods (pulses, meat, fish), milk or milk replacements for calcium, protein and B vitamins, daily variety of oils and grains. Also ensure that your child takes vitamin D supplements as recommended by your country (this is usually 10 ug per day).If your child is still breastfed, amazing! Breastmilk is fantastic in the transfer of antibodies and can certainly help boost your child’s immune system.

Nutrients work together in synergy, its like a well-oiled orchestra: too much or too little makes the orchestra go out of tune. Excessive water soluble vitamins (i.e. vitamin C, folic acid, B vitamins) mostly will be excreted through urine (assuming normal kidney function) but excessive fat soluble vitamins get stored (i.e. vitamin A, Vitamin E, vitamin D) which if consumed excessively can lead to negative side effects. Zinc is often also proposed and is a wonderful immuno-modulatory mineral, but excessive supplementation has an impact on iron absorption.

So what am I saying? Well, healthy eating of a variety of food, that does not only give a balanced exposure to vitamins and minerals but allows for a diverse gut microbiome and vitamin D supplementation (as recommended by your health authorities) is the best remedy for prevention……..I know this is a boring to hear, but really this has the best evidence for “boosting” the immune system. If you want to take additional vitamin C and zinc for prevention, please avoid mega dosages, as these do not come without risk, but be aware that this may have no impact as the scientific evidence is really conflicting in regards to the outcome.

If your child has an underlying illness, then discuss this ideally with your dietitian, who can personalise a supplementation regime, if required. In addition, if your has feeding difficulties or ARFID, this required individualised assessment and advice.

I think the best way also to finish this post is a message of follow good hygiene practice as is currently recommended.