What Is The Role Of Vitamin D?
- Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorous from the diet. These are important minerals for the growth and development of strong healthy bones
- Young children have an increased need for vitamin D because they grow very rapidly
- A lack of vitamin D can lead to a condition known as rickets. This is a bone disease which can affect children and can result in muscle pain and weakened bones, fractures and bone deformities.
What Factors Can Contribute To Vitamin D Deficiency?
- Lack of skin exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D can be made when the skin is in contact with sunlight
- Skin pigmentation, darker skin absorbs less sunlight
- Inadequate intake of vitamin D or calcium through the diet, particularly if following a vegetarian, dairy or lactose free diet
- Exclusive breastfeeding by mothers with a vitamin D deficiency
- Medical conditions which prevent the body from absorbing vitamin D.
Signs And Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore
- If your baby’s growth has slowed
- Dental concerns, including deformed or soft enamel on teeth, teeth slowly coming through or failing to erupt at all
- Deformed bones, such as bowed legs, hunched back or a curved spine (scoliosis)
- A large front fontanelle (known as a ‘soft spot’) and a prominent forehead
- Fragile bones that are prone to fractures.
How Is It Prevented?
- Diet. Offer your child foods rich in vitamin D, such as oily fish (salmon, tuna, and sardines), egg yolks and liver. Foods fortified with vitamin D can also be chosen, including margarines and some infant formulas
- Sunlight. Although it’s always important to remain sun smart, balanced sun exposure can protect against vitamin D deficiency. In summer, aim for a few minutes each day; while 2-3 hours per week is recommended during winter months. Remember to avoid the sun during peak UV times between 10am and 3pm each day
- Supplements. Your child’s doctor can prescribe suitable supplements if they believe they are needed.
For young children, there is every chance of reversing any skeletal deformities caused by rickets when treatment is sought early on.
If you are concerned your child is at risk of developing vitamin D deficiency or rickets, it is important that you contact your health care professional.