Vitamin D is essential for our kids' growth. Dr. Mitravinda Savanur tells us how with the balance of the right diet and getting outside.
Why is Vitamin D necessary?
Taking care of kids when they are growing is an uphill task, especially when it comes to nurturing them, keeping them healthy, i.e. proper development of their body.
Vitamin D helps your child absorb calcium
Parents, both of newborn babies and growing kids, are kept on their toes – give them vitamins this and protein supplements that. Out of the many vitamins a child needs, vitamin D stands out for the plethora of health benefits it provides, particularly for growing children. Vitamin D helps your child absorb calcium, a fundamental building block for strong bones, muscle health, and healthy teeth.
Parents across the globe know for a fact that exposure to sunlight is the primary source of Vitamin D, but the question is, is it enough?
What happens if your kid has a low level of vitamin D?
Vitamin D deficiency is mostly found amongst children and adolescents. Lower levels vitamin D in children leads to bone and muscle pain. In some instances, it leads to bones which tend to be softer subsequently causing rickets. It is often said the low level of calcium can also cause muscle cramps, fits particular in younger babies.
Children with reduced or minimal exposure to sunlight are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency
Dental deformities, impaired growth, increase in bone fractures are some of the other causes of the lower level of vitamin D. Children with reduced or minimal exposure to sunlight are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. Similarly, kids living in places which are overcast most of the time also face a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. Therefore, having the right amount of sunlight exposure along with other vitamin D supplements are of utmost importance.
Sources of vitamin D
sun exposure on the bare skin for about 5 – 10 minutes, twice or thrice in a week
Usually vitamins are nutrients that are required to be taken through diet; however, vitamin D can be produced by our own body through our skin when exposed to sunlight. Yes, exposure to sunlight is primarily the source of vitamin D; but how much of an exposure to the sunlight is sufficient? It is said that reasonable sun exposure on the bare skin for about 5 – 10 minutes, twice or thrice in a week, is enough to produce adequate vitamin D.
Although the sun is the most efficient and common source of vitamin D, there are other sources with reasonable levels of vitamin D:
Cod liver oil
Fortified skim milk
Fortified cereals and
Be careful with Vitamin D supplements
An excess in consumption of the vitamin D (known as hypercalcemia) over a period shall lead to over-deposits of calcium in children which can weaken the bones, kidney problems, affect the digestive tract, cause constipation, itchy skin, weight loss etc. It is therefore imperative to keep in mind the requisite intake of vitamin D. The vitamin D intake varies from breastfed infants (0-12 months) to younger children (1-4 years) to children of the age 4-10 years.
Balancing Sun Exposure and Sunscreen
know the balance between sun-exposure and use of sunscreen
Doctors and pediatricians generally tend to specify the recommended daily vitamin D intake as well as the maximum daily vitamin D dose (measured in IU – international units). Furthermore, it is also advisable for the parents to know the balance between sun-exposure and use of sunscreen which by consulting the paediatrician.
- For infants (0 to 6 months); taking them on walks using a pushchair in the morning and late afternoon is advisable when the UV-index is at its low.
- For babies (6 to 12 months), it is safe to use sunscreen (tear-free) to areas uncovered.
- For kids greater than one year (toddlers) up to 5 years (Preschool); sunscreens with SPF 15 or higher is advisable. Also, make sure that the kids are in the shade when UV-index is at the highest and covered with proper clothing.
Like all other vitamins and nutrients, which are essential for a child’s growth, vitamin D is a significant requirement for the child’s well-being. In today's digital era, where many children spend most of their time indoors playing digital games, watching TV, and feasting on processed food; they are undoubtedly weakening their bodies, leading to the inadequate production of vitamin D.
Parents need to ensure that their child gets all the essential nutrients for their growth, take part in outdoor activities, avoiding prolonged exposure to harmful UV rays, and maintaining their diet with right amounts of vitamin D and supplements.