Vitamin D Deficiency in Children: A Growing Problem

Vitamin D deficiency is a condition that has been around for a long time. It has recently gained interest because of its effects on children.
Vitamin D Deficiency in Children: A Growing Problem
Irene Nora Melamed

Written and verified by Doctor Irene Nora Melamed.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Research on vitamin D has increased lately; in particular, research associated with diseases has increased. These studies look at the effects of these diseases. Some also explore how they may be related to vitamin D deficiency in children.

Since this problem is growing, it requires a lot of research. However, what seems to be clear is that this subject attracts a lot of attention, but also a lot of controversies. Specialists can’t agree when to order vitamin D tests and when to prescribe supplements, if necessary.

What is vitamin D deficiency?

Humans need a certain amount of vitamin D to be healthy. When they lack that amount, it’s called vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D plays an important role in the body: it helps in the nervous, muscular, and immune systems, among others.

Also, vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. This is an essential component of our bones. Therefore, vitamin D prevents osteopenia, which sometimes occurs in premature babies, according to data from the US National Library of Health. 

Baby's feet

Sources of Vitamin D

To prevent vitamin D deficiency in children, it’s important to know the sources of this vitamin. Vitamin D can come from different sources:

  • Through the skin
  • With diet and supplements

Although the body produces vitamin D naturally after sun exposure, the problem is that excessive exposure to sunlight can lead to aging skin and cancer.

Rickets: A condition from a deficiency

As this information from the American Academy of Pediatrics points out: “Rickets is a condition that occurs when bones soften in growing children. It happens when the bones can’t absorb enough calcium and phosphorous to make healthy and strong bones. Although there are genetic and metabolic causes for rickets, the most common is vitamin D deficiency and is known as nutritional rickets.”

Thus, rickets is a common disease in developing or underdeveloped countries. It’s characterized by delayed growth and is accompanied by bone deformation. It usually occurs in children between 6 months and 3 years, since those are the stages when they grow the fastest. 

The scientific society warns that babies who are breastfed and who don’t get additional vitamin D are at the highest risk. This risk is even greater if the baby’s mother is also vitamin D deficient.

Woman breastfeeding

Too much vitamin D is also a problem

According to information from the same page from the US National Library of Medicine that we mentioned earlier, getting too much vitamin D can also be harmful to the body. This is known as vitamin D toxicity.

The signs of vitamin D toxicity, as this study published in the Pharmacological Bulletin points out, include, among others:

So, too much vitamin D can also damage the kidneys. Too much of this vitamin also raises calcium levels in the blood. The high levels of calcium in the blood, called hypercalcemia, can cause confusion, disorientation, and heart rhythm problems.

Also, researchers from the Drug and Therapeutics Committee, Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society states that it’s necessary to understand the different sources of vitamin D. These sources could be both from natural sources and or from other sources. Also, it’s important to know how to optimize the synthesis and ingestion of this vitamin.

Keep reading: Vitamin A Deficiency: Possible Risks

Vitamin D deficiency in children

It’s very important to meet your body’s demand for vitamin D. To do so, make sure to talk to a doctor for guidance so you don’t go about it alone.

Also, it’s necessary to remember that it’s just as harmful to get too much vitamin D as it is to have vitamin D deficiency. Because of that, it’s important to find the right balance between safe sunbathing and getting adequate amounts of vitamin D. 

We hope this information on vitamin D deficiency has helped you learn more about this topic. However, if you have any questions, it’s always best to talk to a health professional so they can provide you with an adequate diagnosis and treatment, if necessary. 

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.