Vitamin D is perhaps the single most powerful nutrient in the known universe for preventing influenza. ~ Mike Adams, natural health researcher and author.
Why does my child need vitamin D?
We all know that Vitamin D helps the body absorb minerals like calcium and phosphate as well as bone mineralization (that means it helps in depositing calcium and phosphate in bones), which helps in building strong teeth and bones.
If children are deficient in vitamin D, it can lead to rickets, which is a disease that can lead to bone deformity and fractures, at the same time children who are deficient in vitamin D tend to become stunted.
Apart from bone health recent research has shown that vitamin D plays a very important role in immunity. It has been seen that a good vitamin D status reduces the risk of respiratory infections like flu and ear infections. Vitamin D also helps in preventing children from getting asthma and allergy symptoms.
Why there is such high prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in children?
According to recent research, most children (50-90%) in India are deficient in Vitamin D, there are multiple reasons why this is happening. first of all, although vitamin D is very important it is not usually available in normal foodstuff, food like fatty fish, liver & eggs which are a good source of Vitamin D, are generally not consumed in sufficient amount to meet the daily requirement of children at a growing age.
We get the majority of our Vitamin D from the sun. Sunlight helps our skin convert cholesterol to cholecalciferol which is the active form of vitamin D. But nowadays, because of our lifestyles our children spend very little time outdoors and mostly they spend a lot of time in front of computers, and mobile screens and play indoor games which have reduced exposure to sun and failure of our body to make vitamin D.
How much vitamin D does my child need?
Infants up to 12 months old need 400 international units (IU), or 10 micrograms (mcg), a day. Children older than 1 need 600 IU, or 15 mcg, a day.
As Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and can be stored in the body for prolonged periods, your child doesn't have to get enough vitamin D every day. Instead, aim to get the recommended amount as an average for a few days or a week.
What can we do to correct the Vitamin D deficiency?
Nutritional sources like Fish, eggs, and liver can be included in the diets regularly, and for vegetarians, fortified cow milk, yogurt, and butter are important sources. But in reality, dietary sources are not going to be enough for small children, hence realizing this fact AAP has recommended daily supplementation of at least 400IU of vitamin D, especially for exclusively breastfeeding children to ensure adequate vitamin D intake at this growing age. You should take help from your physician to choose a good quality vitamin D3 supplement for your child. Choosing Vitamin D3 is important as it is the active form of Vitamin D.
Sun exposure can also contribute to vitamin D build-up in the body, in general, it is said that sun exposure between 10 am to 3 pm is quite effective in the synthesis of vitamin D, in winters about 30-40min and in summers 5-10 min is sufficient for getting the adequate vitamin D, so you can let children play in the daytime to get the benefits of the sunlight.
To sum up, Vitamin D is essential for bone strength as well as immunity which helps children fight infections, as natural sources are fatty fish egg, butter yogurt, and fortified milk formula, as well as sunlight and most important to remember is young children need supplementation of vitamin D3 to meet their daily requirements.