What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is needed to help build strong healthy bones in children. Over the past several years, our knowledge about the importance of vitamin D has expanded. Vitamin D is not just for maintaining healthy bones; it's important for many body functions including:
- A healthy immune system to help fight infections
- Preventing the development of autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease
- Brain development
- Healthy heart and circulation
- Anti-cancer effects
Where Can Your Child Get Vitamin D?
1. The body can make vitamin D from sunlight exposure. Approximately 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen or 15 minutes daily allows for adequate vitamin D synthesis.
2. It is found in some foods as well as in dietary supplements:
- Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna
- Cod liver oil
- Egg yolks
- Foods fortified with vitamin D include milk, cereal, orange juice, yogurt, and margarine
How Much Vitamin D Does My Child Require?
- Infants and under 12 months of age: 400 international units (IU) every day
- Older children and adolescents: 600 IU every day
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency?
If your child is not getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D, this will lead to vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency can present as:
- Softening of the bones or rickets
- Bone pain
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty thinking
- Increased susceptibility to infections
- Insulin resistance
How Is Vitamin D Deficiency Diagnosed and Treated?
Your child’s physician will order a blood test to check concentrations of 25 hydroxy vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is less than 30 nmol/L.
Vitamin D supplements are used to correct the deficiency. The dose of supplement is based on the level of deficiency and is determined after discussion with your child’s physician.
Prevention of Vitamin Deficiency
- Adequate sunlight exposure
- Healthy diet that incorporates vitamin D-rich foods
- Supplement breast fed infants with 400 IU a day of vitamin D
- Supplement older children and adolescents who do not get 600 IU of vitamin D per day
If you are concerned that your child may be deficient in vitamin D, then speak to your child’s physician about your concerns.