Unvaccinated children head back to classrooms: Tips to help boost their immune system against delta COVID variant

Getting good sleep, eating healthy diet, getting nutrients more important than ever

Youngsters enter the first new Catholic school built in Baltimore in roughly 60 years with a mix of enthusiasm and first-day-back jitters, Monday Aug. 30, 2021. The new 65,000 square foot school near downtown Baltimore is an anomaly in the national education landscape where the pandemic has shuttered many parish schools. It's named after Mother Mary Lange, who started a Catholic school for Black children in 1828 _ the first U.S. Catholic school for African-American youth. (AP Photo/David McFadden) (David McFadden, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

For many parents, the biggest concern has been how to protect children under 12 who cannot yet receive the COVID-19 vaccine and whether or not they can bring the virus home from school.

It is true young children are less likely to get seriously ill from COVID-19. However, more children are being hospitalized with the delta variant of the virus than at any point during the pandemic. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), as of Aug. 26 nearly 4.8 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. About 204,000 cases were added the past week, marking the second week with child cases at the level of the winter surge of 2020-21, according to the AAP’s data. After declining in early summer, child cases have increased exponentially, with over a five-fold increase the past month, rising from about 38,000 cases the week ending July 22 to nearly 204,000 the past week.

In Michigan, schools and county health officials are implementing mask mandates in an effort to help stop the spread of the virus. One of the main concerns, other than people getting sick, is having to shut down schools again and send the kids home.

Dr. Seema Bonney, one of Philadelphia’s top functional medicine and ER doctors, and a mother of three young children, is offering the following tips to parents to keep their child’s immune system, along with their own, strong as they head back to in-person learning:

  • Sleep – getting the proper amount of sleep is one of the top ways to strengthen the immune system and lower stress. Children 6 to 12 should sleep 9 to 12 hours to promote optimal health. Make sure they’re not playing on their devices late into the night and getting the sleep they need.
  • Healthy diet – While it’s easy to let picky kids stick with their mac and cheese and chicken fingers, this is a crucial time to implement better eating habits. Try to get creative with adding more fruits and vegetables into their diets, and limit processed foods and sugar.
  • Micronutrients – If your child isn’t taking a multivitamin to supplement vitamins and minerals from their diet, it may be a good time to start. Vitamins C, D, A, E, and zinc are essential for keeping the immune system at its best.

Metro Detroit children younger than 12 participate in Moderna COVID vaccine study

Because children younger than 12 cannot get vaccinated against COVID yet, there are many concerns about COVID spreading through them. Some children in Metro Detroit are participating in a trial of Moderna’s COVID vaccine on those younger than 12.

In May, Moderna asked the federal government to start the process so it could test its vaccine on children between the ages of 6 months and 11 years old. Henry Ford Hospital has been Michigan’s test site where children received their first dose of either the vaccine or a placebo.

Henry Ford’s interim Pediatrics Chair Dr. Tisa Johnson Hooper said the children are brave and vital.

“This study is gonna help us determine the safety and dose efficacy of children 11 and younger,” Hooper said.

The process is lengthy and it could take another 15 months before researchers know if the vaccine will be made available to children.

Read: Henry Ford Health System enrolling children for Moderna COVID vaccine study

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About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.