Vitamin D for children is essential. Here’s how you can make sure that your child is getting enough.
Vitamin D is essential for the development and maintenance of bone health. While many know that a primary component of bone growth and development is calcium, not everyone knows that it can only be absorbed by the body when vitamin D is present, according to an article published in JAMA Pediatrics.
Recommended daily dose of vitamin D
Research suggests the possibility of other important benefits of vitamin D for health throughout life. Current recommendations for vitamin D are 400 international units (IU) per day for infants younger than 12 months and 600 IU for children/adolescents.
For infants who are fully or partially breastfed, daily supplementation with vitamin D is recommended until the child is completely weaned.
How can the child obtain vitamin D?
There are 3 main ways to obtain the vitamin D that the body needs.
First of all, people produce vitamin D when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight. The amount of vitamin D that the skin can produce depends on many factors, including the amount of time spent outdoors, the season of the year, the latitude where one lives, and skin pigmentation.
In certain areas, vitamin D production may decrease or even be absent during the winter months. In addition, while sunscreen products are essential for children, they can decrease vitamin D production.
A second way to get vitamin D is through food. However, vitamin D is not found in many foods. Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna and sardines, have vitamin D naturally. Eggs contain a small amount of vitamin D. Vitamin D is added to some foods, including beverages such as fortified milk and orange juice, as well as foods such as fortified cereals and yogurt.
A third way to obtain vitamin D is through a kids’ vitamin D supplement. One option is a multivitamin, as most children’s multivitamins include the recommended daily amount of vitamin D. There are also vitamin D supplements available in liquid, chewable, or pill form. Some supplements contain both calcium and vitamin D.
What happens if the child does not have enough vitamin D?
Because the vitamin plays such an important role in bone growth and development, a deficiency can lead to weak or soft bones. A rare but serious condition caused by vitamin D deficiency is rickets. Vitamin D supplements can prevent and treat this problem.
As with many health recommendations for children, you may feel that the information is contradictory. Parents must strike a balance between recommendations and what they know about the child’s diet and lifestyle. Sunscreens are important because they protect children’s skin from sunburn and the risk of skin cancer.
However, time spent outside in the sun is important for the production of vitamin D. Most children will have enough exposure to the sun in their daily life, even if they use sunscreen.
Additionally, while daily multivitamins are not recommended as necessary for children, vitamin D supplementation may be helpful for those who do not get their daily dose of vitamin D through food or who have limited sun exposure. If you are not sure that the child is getting enough vitamin D, talk to the pediatrician.