Have you ever heard that too much vitamin D can be a bad thing? Well, we are here to warn you on just how carefully and seriously you should take vitamin supplements for kids!
Nicknamed “the sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D is essential for kids’ muscle and bone health, and for strengthening their immune system.
Vitamin D is absorbed into the body by direct exposure to sunlight (hence the nickname) or through ingestion of food. Throughout most of the year, from April to October, children will naturally absorb enough of this vitamin. A summery day spent playing in the sun or in the water will ensure enough vitamin D.
As we said, it is also possible to absorb it through food. Unfortunately, foods such as tuna, sardines, salmon, egg yolks, and fortified milk are not usually kids’ favourites, and they also aren’t vegan.
Cereals and orange juice also contain vitamin D and that is a good sign! However, they are usually filled with unnecessary sugar that is not good for kids. Mushrooms, and some other vegan foods that kids might enjoy, ensure high levels of vitamin D, but sometimes they are not enough.
When supplements come in handy
Problems come in the other months of the year, in fall and winter, when kids are usually lacking vitamin D absorption from the sun. Ťhis is when vitamin D supplements come in handy, and maybe kids will love them best if they are also delicious and not just boring pills!
For some children, especially those with darker skin, obese children, or those who for any reason wear clothing that covers most of their skin, and rarely go outside, supplements are needed all year round.
Certain medications can also lower vitamin D absorption, for instance, anticonvulsants, or even over-the-counter aids. Naturally, diseases such as celiac disease also cause deficiencies in vitamin D.
Usually, a vitamin D deficiency will manifest itself in muscle and bone pain. Kids will often get soft bones which can cause them to bend. Now, vitamin D is also directly linked to inducing low levels of calcium, which manifests itself in muscle cramps or even seizures in severe cases.
Taking vitamin D supplements
So, before introducing any type of multivitamin supplements, it is best to take into consideration all the health specifications your child has. In order to do that, it is important to discuss your child’s lifestyle and medical condition with your paediatrician!
They will know best the requirements your child has based on their age, and any other medication or herbal supplements they take.
Their vitamin D levels are easily indicated in blood tests. If it is a mild deficiency, increased sun exposure should help. If there is a severe vitamin D deficiency, supplements will be required. These might be needed short-term, and if your child’s vitamin D levels aren’t able to stay consistent, supplements will be needed long-term.
We listed here the usual recommendations for treating a lack of vitamin D in babies and children:
Babies that are younger than 3 months: 2,000 IU supplements on a daily basis for 3 months
Babies between 2 and 12 months: oral supplements of either a single dose of 50,000 IU or 2,000 IU daily over a 3 month period.
Children between 1 and 12 years old: either a single dose of 150,000 IU or daily oral supplements of 3,000-6,000 IU for 3 months.
Children older than 12 years: a single dose of 300,000 IU or daily oral supplements of 6,000 IU for 3 months.
There are also different weekly or monthly ways to intake vitamin D supplements which can best be decided by your child’s healthcare provider!
Benefits of taking vitamin D
Let’s take a look at some good sides of taking vitamin D supplements! The biggest hints come in when it comes to disease prevention. According to some studies, high levels of vitamin D will ensure your children swerve on some heart diseases, bowel cancer, and other issues.
However, the ones we know are 100% fact-checked are strong bones, healthy development, and formed muscles. Other benefits also include a healthy functioning nervous system, while it also supports the defence system against infections. There are also connections to vitamin D improving heart and lung health.
Sunlight and vitamin D
Children receive about 80% of vitamin D only from sunlight. However, we all know the dangerous side effects that too much UV exposure can cause, so the required SPF can be a limit to necessary vitamin D levels. Make sure to avoid any chance of sunburn, skin cancer, or skin damage.
The amount of sunlight exposure will primarily depend on where you live in the world. For example, if you live in really warm and tropical places, even a few minutes per day will meet your child’s vitamin D requirements.
Wherever you are, if it is summer, a few minutes daily is more than enough because of the strong heat and UV exposure. Never forget to put SPF on your child when they will be spending the whole day outside. Not only that, re-application is essential!
In colder places, 2-3 hours per week in June and July are usually enough. The same goes for the period between May and August.
Another factor to consider is the colour of your child’s skin. People who have naturally darker skin tones will require 3-6 times more sun exposure than fair-skinned people in order to make and absorb vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency is often an issue for children in the winter months. Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency are easily detected by blood tests, and they can manifest strongly in soft bones, muscle and bone pain, cramps, as well as low levels of calcium.
Treatment for these deficiencies depends on the child’s age, considering that babies will require significantly lower levels of vitamin D than teens.
Before taking any further steps, involving your healthcare provider is crucial considering vitamin D absorption is related to things such as skin colour and medical conditions.