Development of the Immune System in Children
Your child’s immune system is comprised of tissues, organs and cells that work to attack invaders and defend him against germs 1. Much like other body systems that continue to develop after birth, like the nervous system and digestive system, the immune system develops throughout childhood and into adulthood 1. In the meantime, your child’s body will rely on different types of immunity to stay healthy.
Your child is born with innate immunity. According to the Kids Health website, innate immunity offers general protection until your child is able to build her immune system further 1. Her cough reflex, skin and mucus production are all part of her innate immunity that began developing before birth.
Passive immunity is temporarily given to your child from another source. For example, breast milk provides immunity from diseases that Mom has been exposed to. Medline Plus indicates that your child has antibodies he received from the placenta during pregnancy as a form of passive immunity. These antibodies disappear between 6 to 12 months of age, when your child’s own adaptive immunity is growing stronger.
The most significant aspect of your child’s immunity development is adaptive immunity, which develops throughout her life as she is exposed to illness and germs. Beginning a few months into the first year of life, she is already more prepared to fight infections than she was at birth, according to Kids Health 1. Vaccinations, which are typically given beginning in infancy, are another way that your child develops immunity to certain diseases. Her immune system will continue to strengthen and develop throughout childhood as she comes into contact with more germs, and the cells in her body learn to fight against different infections 1.
Although your child will naturally build his immunity through exposure, it is still important to take necessary precautions for his health. Follow his doctor’s recommendations for vaccinations, and avoid purposely exposing him to ill individuals. In some cases, certain medications can lower his immunity, and autoimmune disorders and premature birth can reduce the effectiveness of his immune system 1. In this case, your child’s doctor can help you to take extra precautions for his health.
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