How Can Teens Build Up Their Immune Systems?

By Candice Coleman
A healthful diet may boost immune function.
A healthful diet may boost immune function.

The immune system protects humans from a wealth of bacteria and viruses. A teen's genetic code plays a big role in how his immune system works. However, little research has looked into whether or not lifestyle habits can influence immune function. Though no scientific evidence has conclusively determined that humans can boost their immune systems, you can take steps to protect your immune system's health.

Theories on Lifestyle and the Immune System

If it is possible to boost immune function, the best strategy is to adopt healthy practices like eating a balanced diet and not smoking, according to Harvard Health Publications. Foods high in vitamin C, selenium, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to boost immunity, notes Dr. William Sears. Other theories on how to boost immune function include getting plenty of sleep and exercise, maintaining a normal body weight and getting regular medical screenings if you are at risk for certain health conditions. Teens should be on the lookout for other threats, like avoiding people who are sick and washing hands frequently.

Conditions That Can Affect the Immune System

Teenagers cannot control every condition that affects the immune system, including autoimmune disorders such as lupus, but they may be able to avoid other conditions that affect the immune system. For example, HIV and AIDS can reduce immune system function. Teens should strive to practice safe sex by using condoms for every sexual act and getting screened for sexually-transmitted infections before becoming intimate with someone else. A teen should never share needles with another person.

Theories on Vaccinations

Teenagers who are concerned about contracting certain illnesses may want to seek out vaccinations. No evidence currently exists that multiple immunizations are related to the development of type 1 diabetes or any other negative effect on the immune system. Vaccinations can cause a mild illness, but in many cases, teens may just experience soreness around the vaccination area. Your teen should ask her doctor which immunizations may be appropriate for her.

Additional Information

Keeping healthy and protecting against illness brings a lot of benefits. However, it is impossible to be protected from every illness. Ask your teen's doctor about what he can do to prevent catching particular illnesses and what he should do in the event that he gets sick.

About the Author

Candice Coleman worked in the public school system as a middle school and high school substitute teacher. In addition to teaching, she is also a tutor for high school and college students.