Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for a child’s normal growth and development. It helps set the stage for a child’s bone density later in life. Vitamin D helps kids’ bodies absorb calcium, which in turn helps them develop strong bones and teeth. Children with vitamin D deficiencies are at greater risk for stunted growth and weakened bones and are prone to fractures and osteoporosis later in life. In addition, a deficiency in vitamin D may lead to a condition called rickets, a bone-softening disease that causes severe bowing of the legs, poor growth, and sometimes muscle pain and weakness. Increasing a child’s vitamin D intake will not only help prevent rickets, it can also help to treat it. While cases of rickets are rare, doctors are still diagnosing it, especially in babies between 3 and 18 months old; however, the condition can almost always be fixed by adding vitamin D and calcium to the child’s diet. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, exclusively breastfed babies are at the greatest risk of rickets because — although breastfeeding is considered the ideal form of nourishment for infants — breast milk doesn’t have high enough concentrations of vitamin D.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children — from babies to teens — get 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D every day, starting as early as a few days old for some.

The new report recommends that 400 IU of a daily vitamin D supplement for:

Vitamin D is found in foods like eggs, fish, liver and in milk and cereals (which have been vitamin D-fortified). Approximately one-half cup of fortified cereal or one egg will provide about 40 IUs of vitamin D. Milk is the best choice as it offers 100 IUs of vitamin D per cup. Cooking does not affect the content of vitamin D in foods. Vitamin D also is produced by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight; however, it can be hard to determine just how much sunshine is safe and effective for an individual child due to factors like the amount of pigment in a child’s skin.

Children with malabsorption issues, seizure disorders, cerebal palsy with limited mobility, cystic fibrosis, gastrointestinal disorders or kidney disease can develop a vitamin D deficiency that can cause a condition in which calcium is lost from bones causing them to become weak and brittle (osteomalacia).

A child who suffers from a vitamin D deficiency often doesn’t have symptoms until it starts to cause problems, but your doctor can test for vitamin D levels if a problem is suspected.

Here are some ways to make sure everyone in your home gets enough vitamin D:

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