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Importance of Immunity in Infants

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Immunity is critical in children and helps to fight against foreign invaders that cause harm to children. Know more about it in the article given below.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Jeffrey Aaron

Published At January 5, 2023
Reviewed AtJuly 24, 2023

What Is the Immune System?

The immune system in infants plays an essential role in child growth and development because it helps to fight against foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, and various microbes. When these foreign bodies, like bacteria, viruses, and other germs, invade the infant's body, the immune system acts very quickly and starts fighting against these foreign bodies and thus protecting the infants from infections. The immune system works throughout our lives and protects against infections. However, if the immune system is weak, they are sometimes prone to various conditions, which may be life-threatening.

In newborns, the antibodies are produced by the mother, pass to the newborn and act against the invaders. This immunity is called passive immunity. Passive immunity is short-term immunity which is otherwise called natural immunity. The newborns have deficient immunity at the time of birth, so they cannot handle a few infections. The newborns are recommended for various vaccinations that protect against diseases. Their immunity keeps improving as they grow, and their fighting power also enhances.

How Does the Immune System Act Against Foreign Invaders?

The immune system is a collection of various proteins and cells which collaborate and protect infants from multiple infections. For example, when a foreign body attacks the infant, the white blood cells recognize the foreign bodies and start producing the unique proteins called antibodies; these antibodies fight against the foreign bodies. This response is called the immune response.

Once these antibodies are formed, they will recognize the invaders next time very easily. This ability to memorize foreign bodies is called immunity. Preterm babies have low immunity, and babies are more prone to various infections. Therefore, it is always essential to be cautious while handling preterm babies.

How to Boost the Immune System in Children?

The immunity in the newborn is passed from mother to child and will be there for a few weeks to a few months. After that, the immune system starts working whenever the baby gets attacked by the virus. They make new antibodies that protect children from present and future infections. But babies' immunity is not as strong as in adults. Meanwhile, one can do the following things to protect oneself from diseases.

  • Breast Feeding: Human breast milk is a vital source in children that develops immunity and fights against infections. It has various vitamins and minerals, along with antibodies and probiotics. These antibodies are passed from the mother to the child through breast milk because the baby and the mother often come in contact with the same germs. Breastfeeds are less prone to infection when compared to babies with formula milk. But mothers who can not breastfeed their children can opt for infant formula milk, a healthy option. But in some cases, like polio (disabling and life-threatening disease caused by a virus), measles (a contagious infection caused by a virus), and chickenpox (a contagious viral infection causing blisters on the skin), breast milk will not help. So to protect from dangerous complications, the children are recommended to be vaccinated.

  • Vaccination: Vaccination is the safest way to develop immunity in children. It is also the most effective way to build immunity in children. Vaccination creates an immune response like antibodies, but it generates an immune response without causing any sickness in the children. For example, mothers can be vaccinated for whooping cough (infection of the respiratory system) and flu (common viral infection) virus in the third trimester of pregnancy, when the antibodies are passed to the child. Thus the child can be protected from pertussis or whooping cough and flu infections. A baby's first vaccine is given immediately after birth, after six weeks, then after four months and six months. It is always better to follow the vaccination schedule. If there are any doubts regarding when to vaccinate a kid or what vaccination has to be given, immediately consult the pediatrician for further information.

  • Diet and Supplements: While breastfeeding and formula feeding are the only options for infants and children who have started with solids, fresh vegetables and fruits are a source of vitamins and minerals, which helps improve immunity. External supplements can also be given, but antibiotics harm healthy gut bacteria.

Is an Infants Immune System Well Developed?

Mothers' antibodies help to fight infection in children, but the actual immunity in children starts developing from two to three months old. But many parents may be confused about whether the baby's immunity is created or not. If there is any doubt or the child shows any of the following symptoms, consult the doctor immediately. The signs that show low immunity are:

  • Difficulty in breathing.

  • Blush skin or lip color.

  • Dehydration.

  • Fever.

  • Lethargy to wake up.

  • Recurrent signs of infection.

What Are the Factors That Impact Immunity in Babies?

The factors that influence immunity in babies are:

  • The age of the child.

  • Health status of the child.

  • All vaccinations given.

  • Diet and supplements are taken.

  • Breastfeeding may also play a vital role in immunity.

What Are the Types of Immune Disorders That Affect Children?

The various immune disorders that affect children are:

Conclusion:

Immunity in children plays an essential role in their growth and development. A healthy immune system helps infants to fight against disease-causing germs, like bacteria, viruses, parasites, and cancer cells. Newborn babies with deficient immunity are more prone to infections. In newborns, it is passed from mother to baby through breast milk. However, the exemption will not protect them from a life-threatening condition, so the children are recommended to be vaccinated, which protects them from various diseases. Generally, immunity develops after three months of birth, so it is vital to be careful in the first few months.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

Why Is Immunity So Important?

Immunity is important for living a healthy life. It helps from falling sick often. Various cells, organs, and proteins help one to be healthy. They protect the body from a foreign body that enters the body and multiplies. In addition, it protects the healthy cells from being attacked by a foreign body.

2.

What Is a Baby’s Immunity?

A baby’s immune system is not fully developed when they are born. It develops and becomes mature as they grow older. It provides protection from germ cells that can make them fall ill. The mother’s antibodies are passed to the baby through the placenta.

3.

When Do Babies Develop an Immune System?

The baby’s immune system starts developing when the baby is two or three months old. The cell-mediated immunity is developed during the initial phase of life. Cell-mediated immunity provides immunity to the body through the activation of macrophages and natural killer cells. 

4.

What Does a Baby’s Lack of Immunity Mean?

There are extremely few or almost no T cells in a baby’s body. T cells help provide immunity to a person. Hence, a baby might not be able to fight infections as effectively as older people. However, as they grow, their immune system also starts to develop.

5.

What Benefits Do Newborn Babies Receive From Their Innate Passive Immunity?

The major benefit of passive immunity is that it is fast to act. Active immunity, on the other hand, requires time for antibodies to be formed in order to protect immunity. Active immunity usually takes several weeks to develop.

6.

Which Features of Immunity Are Crucial?

Immunity has the basic ability to react against any foreign particle that enters the body. It either prevents their spread in the body or engulfs and destroys them. It identifies a foreign body, no matter how minute it is. However, immunity does not destroy its own cells normally.

7.

What Relevance Can Vaccines Have for Newborn Infants?

Vaccination is a type of passive immunization. It helps to protect the baby against any infections associated with the vaccines given. Newborns have little immunity at birth. However, it might not be sufficient to protect the baby from serious sickness. Vaccinations come to their aid here. 

8.

What Are Some Instances of Newborn Acquired Immunity?

Immunoglobulin G is transferred to the baby through the placenta at birth. This helps to provide immunity to the newborn for about four to six months. Immunoglobulin A and G are transferred through the breast milk in the early days after birth (called colostrum). This improves a newborn’s immunity. 

9.

How Does Immunity Vary Between Elderly People and Newborn Babies?

Newborns have a lesser or weaker immune system than adults. Their immune system develops as they grow. Innate immunity plays an important role in adults, while for babies, passive immunity is more efficient.

10.

What Are the Benefits of Having Active Immunity?

Active immunity has the ability to remove germ cells from the body. This requires more energy than passive immunity. Hence, it is reserved for organisms that are not effectively removed by the body’s first line of defense. However, it does not provide protection against the mutated antigens to which the body already has antibodies. 
Dr. Jeffrey Aaron
Dr. Jeffrey Aaron

Pediatrics

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