Southern California Integrative Wellness Center
The importance of immunity has been highlighted in the past two years, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing the whole world to come to a halt. Parents have been concerned about the safety of their children with regard to their immunity during the pandemic.
Your child’s immune system starts to develop before birth. During pregnancy, when the fetus is as small as a poppy seed, cells are rapidly dividing and differentiating. Some will eventually develop into immune cells. These early immune cells differentiate further as the pregnancy progresses, but they are not yet activated because of the sterile environment in your uterus.
When you give birth, your baby is exposed to a wide variety of pathogens in the vaginal canal. This exposure strengthens the baby’s immune system in preparation for the wide array of pathogens they will come into contact with throughout their first few months of life.
The Types of Immunity
There are two branches of the immune system, innate and acquired.
The innate immune system enables a rapid response to the body’s invasion by pathogens. It involves several systems working in concert, including the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and mucosal membranes. This immune system is active from the moment your baby is born.
The acquired immune system is more specialized and comprises several organs, including the lymph nodes, spleen, and thymus. It protects your baby from harmful pathogens and maintains a memory of these specific pathogens in case they are affected by the same bacteria or virus in the future. If the body is infected, the pathogen can be removed more efficiently due to this immunological memory.
Your Child’s Immune System
During an acquired immune response, antibodies are produced to fight proteins called antigens on the cell surface of pathogens. From here, memory B cells are produced to store a memory of these antigens. These B cells can remain in the body for decades, providing lasting protection against certain bacteria or viruses.
Alongside the development of natural immunity, vaccinations are also used to reduce your child’s risk of infection. Vaccinations work by stimulating the body’s immune response by issuing attenuated versions of harmful pathogens.
As your child grows, their innate and adaptive immune systems start to mature. They build up a repertoire of more and more memory B cells triggered by previous infections and vaccinations to provide essential protection against disease.