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Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem that can affect children of all ages.This page will highlight the current advice for parents who have babies and older children who are unsure about whether Vitamin D supplementationis necessary for their child. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin required for healthy bone growth. Most of our vitamin D comes from exposure to sunlight and only a small proportion comes from our diet. Oily fish is the only significant dietary source but small amounts are provided by egg yolk, red meat and fortified foods, such as formula milk, some breakfast cereals and margarine.

Lack of vitamin D can result in rickets, poor bone growth, bone pain and low calcium levels.

Because most of our vitamin D is manufactured by exposure to sunlight there is a clear seasonal variability in levels of vitamin D. In the UK, there is little appropriate sunlight to manufacture vitamin D from October to April. During this time, we rely on body stores body stores from sun exposure in the summer and dietary sources to maintain vitamin D levels.

How much vitamin D should I give my child?

The following table gives you an idea of how much vitamin D a child should take per day (Note that 1microgram = 40 units)

Age Recommended Daily intake
0- 1 year 8.5 micrograms per day
Older than 1 year 10 micrograms per day
  • Breastfed babies from birth to one year of age should be given a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10mcg of vitamin D, to make sure they get enough.
  • Babies fed infant formula should not be given a vitamin D supplement until they are receiving less than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day, because infant formula is fortified with vitamin D
  • Children aged 1 to 4 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D


How much vitamin D is there in recommended foods?

Food Vitamin D per 100g of food
Oily fish 5-10 micrograms
Cereal 3-8 micrograms
Egg yolk 5 micrograms
Red meat 1 micrograms
Margarine 7 micrograms

Most infant formulas are fortified with vitamin D and if your child is receiving at least 500ml of formula milk per day this should provide them with their daily vitamin D requirement.


What are the risk factors for developing vitamin D deficiency?

One of the main risk factors is poor sunlight exposure, age, ethnicity (particularly those from asian backgrounds) and those who cover their bodies and face.

The following video clip from the children’s e-hospital gives a good summary of vitamin D deficiency and answers some commonly asked questions.

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