The doctor is in: Vitamin D supplements

Should kids take a vitamin D supplement? 

Vitamin D supplementation is a commonly discussed topic, especially for those of us who live in not-so-sunny Northeast Ohio! Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that our bodies need for calcium absorption as well as bone growth. It’s found in some foods, but we can also absorb vitamin D via sunlight. It’s said that just 15 to 30 minutes spent outside in the direct sunlight can prompt the skin to make all the vitamin D children need — so get those kids outside! 

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Because the area where we live doesn’t get as much sun as many other parts of the country, it can sometimes be difficult for Northeast Ohioans to maintain adequate vitamin D levels without supplementation. For children, the most common dietary source is whole milk, which is fortified with vitamin D. Because other vitamin D-containing foods such as salmon, tuna, egg yolks, etc., tend to not be quite as popular with children, a supplement is often used by parents to ensure adequate intake. The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) for vitamin D for children over 1 is 15 mcg. It’s important for parents to read food labels and calculate the estimated amount of vitamin D from food intake, as well as the amount coming from a supplement. If children consume too much vitamin D, adverse effects, such as kidney stones, can result.   

Infants need vitamin D as well. Although mother’s breast milk is the gold standard for babies, exclusively breastfed infants do not receive enough vitamin D, and a supplement is recommended. Vitamin D supplementation is also recommended for formula-fed babies who consume less than 32 ounces of formula per day. 

For more guidance, talk to your child’s pediatrician. 

— Kristin Hauck, RD, LD, Pediatric Clinical Dietitian, Adolescent Medicine/Locust Pediatrics, Akron Children’s Hospital