At this time of year we might just want to hibernate inside or think that the cold wet weather makes it impossible to be outside with the children, but we actually run the risk of not getting enough Vitamin D and for children that can have a negative impact on their growing bones and a healthy body. Our friends in Public Health have provided us with some information on the benefits of vitamin D in our diets.
What is it?
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones as it helps us absorb calcium and phosphorous from our diet. Vitamin D can only be found naturally in a few foods such as oily fish or eggs. We get most of our vitamin D through sunlight on our skin which is why it is so important to spend time outdoors. Having said that it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the UK, especially during winter months, which is why vitamin drops containing vitamin D are still important for young children (remember that it is important not to expose children to direct sunlight for extended periods that would risk the burning of skin).
Why do children need it?
Most people can get enough vitamin D by having a healthy diet and being outdoors often but babies and children can be at risk of vitamin D deficiency, even if they do have a healthy diet. A lack of vitamin D can cause softening or weakening of the bones or rickets.
Vitamin D is stored up during pregnancy for both the mother’s needs and her new born baby so it is recommended that all pregnant and breastfeeding mothers take a supplement containing 10 micrograms (0.01mg) of vitamin D.
How much do young children need?
The Department of Health recommends that babies and children aged 6 months to 5 years should take a daily vitamin supplement containing vitamin D. The requirement is 7 to 8.5 micrograms of vitamin D per day. Babies who are fed infant formula will not need vitamin drops until they are receiving less than 500ml of formula per day (formula milk is ‘fortified’ with vitamin D and other vitamins and minerals). Breastfed infants may need to receive drops containing vitamin D from one month of age if vitamin D supplements were not taken throughout pregnancy, ask your health visitor for more advice about this.
Are there any side effects?
Vitamin D will not make your child ill or cause any side-effects. Vitamin supplements are completely safe for your child as long as you stick to the doses given on the packaging. It is important that babies and young children take supplements to ensure that they receive the essential vitamins and minerals for healthy growth and development. If you have any concerns about your child you should speak with your midwife, health visitor or GP.
Where can I get vitamin D supplements?
Vitamin drops for babies and children can be purchased over-the-counter in pharmacies or other stores at various prices. You can use the information above as a guide for which to buy for your child. You may qualify to receive free vitamin drops through Healthy Start if you are on a low-income and receive certain benefits. Please see http://www.healthystart.nhs.uk/ for more information on who is eligible and what qualifying families can receive.
For further information about children’s health please contact us via email ShropshireFIS@shropshire.gov.uk or call us on 01743 254400