Vitamin D is crucial for the healthy and proper development of bones, especially in kids as they are still growing. In fact, a baby’s requirement for vitamin D starts from the fetal stage which continues during childhood and throughout life.
Sunlight is a good source of vitamin D; but since most of the kids spend their time indoors they lack enough of it. Besides this, poor dietary habits don’t fulfill their nutritional requirements which make them vitamin D deficient. So here’s why vitamin D is essential and how you can make your children get enough of it.
Why is vitamin D important especially for babies and children?
Vitamin D is essential for bone growth and development in children. It helps the body absorb calcium and builds strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D also acts as a hormone and plays a key role in many important bodily functions including regulation of the immune system, cell growth, and insulin production.
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What happens if a child is vitamin D deficient?
Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, a disease that can result in bone deformity and fractures. It also keeps children from reaching their genetically programmed height and peak bone mass.
How much of vitamin D does a child need?
Vitamin D is measured in international units (IU). Babies younger than 1 year need 400 IU per day; while kids older than 1 year need 600 IU a day.
In certain cases, kids might need extra amounts of vitamin D which include:
- Medical problems such as obesity, celiac disease, multiple fractures, bone pain or cystic fibroids.
- After a bone surgery for recovery
- Use of medicines for seizures, which block the way the body uses vitamin D.
What are the sources of vitamin D?
Vitamin D can be acquired from three main sources. They include Sunlight, diet, and supplements.
- Vitamin D from sunlight: Vitamin D is called as “sunshine vitamin” as sunlight is the best source of vitamin D. kids need sunlight on their skin so that their body can make vitamin D. In this way, one can get about 80% of their vitamin D requirement. But a child’s body will not be able to make vitamin D when covered with clothing or sunscreen to block the rays of the sun at the time of exposure to sunlight. Though it’s hard to estimate how much time one should spend in the sun to get the enough amount of vitamin D, it is suggested to spend at least 5 to 30 minutes in sunlight between 10 A.M to 3 P.M twice a week.
- Vitamin D from food: Since most of the children spend their time indoors, it’s hard for their body to make enough vitamin D from sunlight. So, children should be given foods that are good sources of vitamin D. Foods that contain vitamin D naturally include salmon, liver, mushrooms and egg yolks. To some foods, vitamin D is added such as low-fat dairy products, cereals, and margarine. And all infant formulas contain vitamin D.
- Vitamin D supplements: Kids who have mild deficiencies of vitamin D are suggested to get it from sunlight and diet. But if kids have severe vitamin D deficiency are prescribed vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D supplement can be a large, single dose or might be in smaller doses for several weeks or months.
How can parents help their child get enough vitamin D?
Since vitamin D is crucial for kids in all the developmental stages of their lives, parents should ensure their children are getting enough vitamin D. So here are some ways in which parents can make sure their children get enough of vitamin D.
- Encourage kids to play outdoor sports. This can help their body to make vitamin D from sunlight.
- Since salmon is one of the best sources of vitamin D, make a meal for kids with fatty fish on regular basis.
- There are vitamin D fortified eggs. So get the right kind of eggs and prepare egg-based recipes that kids could enjoy.
- Offer vitamin D fortified milk to kids. This is the best way to give the kids the nutrients they require.
- If kids are not getting enough vitamin D from sunlight and diet, giving them a daily vitamin D supplement on doctor’s advice is a suitable alternative.