Toddlers and young children get lots of sniffles. In fact, it’s not uncommon for some children to get sick 8 to 10 times a year before turning 2 years old. Young children have not had the time to build up their immune systems, making them susceptible. (1)

The good news is that there are simple ways to provide immune support for your toddler. And even better, these healthy immune support strategies also benefit you and your entire family.


Why do toddlers get sick?

Toddlers get frequent sniffles for these reasons (1,2):

  • Lower immune system support: toddlers and young children do not have the immunity that older children and adults have.
  • Daycare, school, playdates: colds spread quickly because of how young children play and interact. Sharing toys, playing closely with each other, and kids simply being kids.
  • Hand and mouth contact: toddlers and young children like to put everything in their mouths. Germs spread really easily when children touch their eyes, mouth, or nose.
  • Winter seasonality and indoor play: these are associated with the winter season because we’re indoors frequently, increasing exposure to more germs.

Children get fewer sniffles as they age, because they develop an immunity to what they are exposed to. Typically, toddlers who attend daycare will have fewer colds when they start school than children who do not attend daycare. (1)


Key facts about the immune system parents need to know

These key facts about the immune system can help when learning how to provide immune support for your toddler:

There are two types of immunity: innate and adaptive. (3,4)

Innate immunity is our body’s first line of defense against pathogens. This defense system is an intricate system of protective barriers including:

        • Skin
        • Mucus
        • Stomach acid
        • Enzymes in our sweat and tears
        • Immune system cells

Your child’s innate immunity is the first to respond to germs and toxins. Your child’s innate immunity is inherited and is active as soon as your child is born.

Adaptive or acquired immunity is the part of our immune system that develops and strengthens as we are exposed to pathogens. The spleen, tonsils, thymus, bone marrow, and lymph nodes regulate this immunity.

When a foreign substance enters the body, these organs and cells respond with antibodies and different types of white blood cells and other immune cells. This immune response is specific to germs and toxins.

Your little’s adaptive immunity changes as they age, are exposed to different pathogens, and receive immunizations and vaccines.

    • Nutrition, gut health, and the microbiome influence immune system health. (4,5)

Your intestinal microbiome is a collection of germs that live in your gut and do an enormous amount of work to keep you healthy.

David Heber, MD, Ph.D., professor emeritus of medicine at UCLA Health, says, “Seventy percent of the immune system is located in the gut. Nutrition is a key modulator of immune function.” (5)

High-fiber foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are shown to help encourage the growth of healthful gut microbes known as prebiotics. Prebiotics help stimulate immune cell activity and are food for the healthful bacteria or probiotics in your gut. (6)

A diet containing both prebiotic and probiotic foods can help support an immune system. Probiotics are available in supplement form and in unpasteurized fermented foods, including kefir, sauerkraut, and some cheeses. (6)


How to help a toddler with their symptoms

While there isn’t a solution, you can take steps to ease your toddler’s symptoms. (2,7)

    • Fluids: good hydration helps to thin mucus and flush the body. Warm herbal tea such as ginger tea with honey, can help soothe a cough and relax the airway. Keep your littles hydrated with water, warm soup, apple juice, and electrolyte solutions.
    • Sleep: during sleep, your immune system goes to work, releasing proteins called cytokines. Some of these cytokines are essential to help fight illnesses.
    • Avoid secondhand smoke: avoid exposure to all cigarette and tobacco smoke. Not only do these irritate the nose and throat, but secondhand smoke also has a range of dangerous side effects.
    • Saline rinse: using a nasal saline rinse is shown to reduce respiratory illnesses. For kids over 4 years old, a saline rinse kit or neti pot can be effective. Just use the recommended saline solution without any added herbs, and be sure to use distilled water. (8)
    • Vapor rub: a homemade vapor rub can help ease your toddler’s symptoms at night, helping your little one sleep better. Use our natural vapor rub recipe in our guide to supporting your child’s immune system.

Staying home and resting is key to helping your little ones recover. Not only do you want to help prevent spreading germs to others, but children need to slow down, so the immune system has a chance to do its job.


How to provide immune support for your toddler

You can provide immune support for your toddler by incorporating simple lifestyle habits. These lifestyle habits are affordable, safe, and free from dangerous side effects.

1.  Eat the rainbow. Citrus fruits, brightly colored vegetables, and leafy greens are great sources of immune-supporting vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. (9)

 2. Take immune-supporting vitamins and minerals. Focus on zinc and vitamins C, D3, and E. (10, 11, 12, 13)

 3. Wash your hands frequently. The CDC says handwashing can prevent 1 in 5 respiratory illnesses and 1 in 3 diarrhea-related sicknesses. (14)

 4. Remember your microbiome. Support your gut health with probiotics and a diet rich in prebiotic foods. (15, 16)

 5. Get outdoors for fresh air, exercise, and vitamin D. Moving our bodies helps reduce stress, detoxes the body, and can encourage immune-supporting changes in white blood cells and antibodies. (17, 18)

 6. Get your zzz’s. Make sleep a priority, especially for your littles who are constantly on-the-go. Keep in mind these recommended hours of sleep (19):

Toddlers 1 – 2 years old: 11 – 14 hours (including naps)

Preschoolers 3 – 5 years old: 10 – 13 hours (including naps)

Children 6 – 12 years old: 9 – 12 hours

Teens 13 – 18 years old: 8 – 10 hours

7.  Look for immune system support supplements that provide hard-to-get nutrients, including DHA, echinacea, elderberry, and propolis. (20, 21, 22)

8.  Limit stress for your children and the entire family. The American Psychological Association says stress directly impacts the body’s ability to fight germs.

As hard as it is to see your littles struggling with cold symptoms, know that it’s normal for your toddlers. Focus on what you can control, giving your kids the nourishment to support healthy immunity.


(1) Colds in children. Paediatr Child Health. 2005 Oct;10(8):493-5. doi: 10.1093/pch/10.8.493. PMID: 19668664; PMCID: PMC2722603. (Accessed February 6, 2023)

(2) Common Cold in Children (Accessed February 6, 2023)

(3) Nutrition and Immunity (Accessed February 6, 2023)

(4) The Immune System (Accessed February 6, 2023)

(5) If you want to boost immunity, look to the gut (Accessed February 6, 2023)

(6) Probiotics and Prebiotics: What’s the Difference? (Accessed February 6, 2023)

(7) Lack of Sleep: Can It Make You Sick? (Accessed February 6, 2023)

(8) What to Know About Saline Solution for Children (Accessed February 6, 2023)

(9) 15 Foods That Boost the Immune System (Accessed February 7, 2023)

(10) Zinc: Fact Sheet for Consumers (Accessed February 7, 2023)

(11) Vitamin C: Fact Sheet for Consumers (Accessed February 7, 2023)

(12) Vitamin D: Fact Sheet for Consumers (Accessed February 7, 2023)

(13) Vitamin E: Fact Sheet for Consumers (Accessed February 7, 2023)

(14) Handwashing: A Family Activity (Accessed February 7, 2023)

(15) Probiotics: What You Need To Know (Accessed February 7, 2023)

(16) Probiotics vs. Prebiotics (Accessed February 7, 2023)

(17) Boosting Your Child’s Immune System (Accessed February 7, 2023)

(18) Exercise and Immunity (Accessed February 7, 2023)

(19) Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need? (Accessed February 7, 2023)

(20) Echinacea: Benefits, Uses, Side Effects and Dosage (Accessed February 7, 2023)

(21) Elderberry (Accessed February 7, 2023)

(22) The Benefits and Uses of Propolis (Accessed February 7, 2023)

(23) How Does Stress Affect the Immune System? (Accessed February 7, 2023)