You may know colostrum as the liquid gold substance that serves as baby’s first milk after birth, before breast milk comes in a few days later. As it turns out, mama cows produce colostrum, too, and bovine colostrum in supplement form may have big benefits for kids of all ages when it comes to preventing illness.

Two studies have found that taking powdered cow colostrum significantly decreases the frequency of recurrent upper respiratory tract infections and reduces the severity of symptoms and illness duration in kids.

What is colostrum?

Human colostrum is packed full of immunologic components like secretory IgA and leukocytes as well as growth factors and nutrients and serves as an infant’s first dose of immune support after birth. 

It’s so beneficial that my own lactation consultant suggested I pump and save as much of the stuff as possible in the 10 days after my son's birth and freeze it. In the event that my baby got sick sometime in his first six months of life, I could offer him colostrum as an immune system boost. (He did get sick, and I was glad to have the colostrum on hand). Anecdotally, colostrum can be used in the months after birth to stave off infections or support babies when they start to show cold symptoms. 

Research on cow colostrum in kids

But two studies highlight that supplementing kids with powdered cow colostrum, which is homologous to human colostrum—but with even a higher concentration of immune factors—may do the same. 

A 2016 study published in the journal Medicine looked at 160 children ages 1 to 6 with recurrent episodes of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) and/or diarrhea who took 3 grams to 6 grams of bovine colostrum powder dissolved in water daily for four weeks. 

The researchers found that after one month of using bovine colostrum, the number of URTI episodes significantly decreased from an average of 8.2 per month to an average of 3.6 two months later. The number of diarrhea episodes also significantly decreased from an average of 6.1 per month to 3.7 per month after two months. 

A 2010 double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study published in the Journal of Japanese Society of Clinical Nutrition found that kids who took 500 milligrams of bovine colostrum daily for two months had fewer URTI infections and significantly fewer days with severe symptoms than kids in the placebo group. 

Side effects reported in the study were mild and temporary, and only reported in 12 of the 160 patients. Reported side effects included skin rash, itching and diarrhea. Because it is a dairy product, cow colostrum should not be used in kids with a sensitivity or allergy to dairy. 

How bovine colostrum may help support kids’ immune systems

Bovine colostrum can help support the human immune response not only by being a rich source of immunoglobulin, antibacterial and antiviral factors, but also by serving as an alternative to antibiotics. “This hyperimmune bovine colostrum [BC], rich in targeted IgG, is different from the conventional antimicrobials as it does not disturb the integrity of the gut microflora, nor will it potentially lead to the emergence of new antibiotic-resistant organisms,” say Saad et al (2016). 

Additionally, “ingesting bovine late colostrum may prevent virus cells from attaching to the larynx and prevent the frequency of onset of URTI,” say Uchida et al (2010). 

“We are in the prime time—cold and flu season—when an increased number of families bring their children in to my office for sick visits because of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). URTIs can cause complications such as sinus infections, ear infections and pneumonia,” says Lauren Crosby, MD, FAAP, pediatrician and scientific advisor for PanTheryx, maker of Life’s First Naturals. “We already know the tremendous health benefits of human colostrum for creating a foundation for an infant’s digestive and immune systems. As I’m sharing more about natural ways to support children’s immune and digestive health with parents and the public in general, cow colostrum is a newer option that has the science to support its safety and use.” 

When to take bovine colostrum

Cow colostrum can be used daily during cold and flu season to help ward off illness. Powdered forms mixed with water can be used in kids over 1 year of age. If your child is dealing with recurrent episodes of URTI or diarrhea, you might want to talk to your doctor about using a low dose of colostrum year-round, and increasing the dose to a therapeutic level if an infection pops up. Before starting any new supplement regimen, talk to your child’s pediatrician.  

Sources

Saad K, Abo-Elela MGM, El-Baseer KAA, et al. Effects of bovine colostrum on recurrent respiratory tract infections and diarrhea in children. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016;95(37):e4560. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000004560

Uchida K, Yamagucki H, Kawasaki M, Yamashita K, Kaji N. Bovine late colostrum (colostrum 6 or 7 days after parturition) supplement reduces symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection in infant. J. Jpn. Soc. Clin. Nutr. 2010;31:122-7.

Interested in trying bovine colostrum to help prevent colds?

Cow colostrum: Life's First Naturals Kids Colostrum Powder

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Colostrum Powder for Kids

Safe for kids as young as 1-year-old, Life’s First Naturals colostrum powder can be easily mixed with water and offered as a potent immune support.

Cow colostrum: Life's First Naturals Kids Chewables Colostrum

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Children's Colostrum Chewables

The children’s colostrum chewables from Life’s First Naturals can be used in kids ages 3 and up, and feature a combination of growth factors, immune factors, prebiotics and proteins.

Hi Well Premium Kids Propolis Plus Colostrum 180Tablets

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Premium Kids Propolis Plus Colostrum 180 Tablets

Hi Well uses colostrum from pasture-raised New Zealand cows in combination with propolis, a substance used by honeybees to seal the hive, which also boasts immune benefits.

cow colostrum: ARMRA Immune Revival

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$39.99

Immune Revival

Founded by a pediatric neurologist, ARMRA Immune Revival is a grassfed colostrum concentrate designed as an immune barrier superfood.