Monday, May 31, 2010

Sunny D- Has your child gotten their dose today? I'm talkin' Vitamins not the drink

Medical Disclaimer-The contents and information on this blog are for your informational use only. My blog posts provide general  health and parenting information.  This information in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read on this blog.

Today is the beginning of a new segment that I'm calling  "Medical Monday".  Each Monday I will tackle a different medical issue.  As a Registered Nurse I am commited to staying current in the medical field through continued education and by increasing my knowledge base to acheive the highest level of compentecy.
It is my responsibilty to provide the most accurate and up to date information available.  It is truely a passion of mine to educate others about health, safety and wellbeing.  If you have any medical topics that you would like me to discuss than please leave me a comment below or email me.  Some possible future posts for my "Medical Monday" segments include: Ear Infections, Vaccines, Treating Constipation, Vasectomies, Pregnancy and Postpartum....
No medical issue is off limits.
Today I will be discussing Vitamin D deficiency in kids.  Read on to find out if your child falls into this category and how to treat this growing concern.   

In our house, sunscreen and summer go together like chocolate cake and a tall glass of milk.  You can't have one without the other.  My poor unfortunate kids have inherited our pastey white pale complexion and they burn to a crisp within minutes of being outside.  They've become very accustomed to the whole "sunscreen application routine" before going outdoors.

I recently came across an article discussing Vitamin D deficiency in kids.  The article stated that millions of children all across Canada and the U.S.A are currently presenting with criticallly low levels of Vitamin D.
The article also stated that one of the possible causes could be the use of sunscreen.

Without getting too technical, sunlight has been a major source of Vitamin D for humans for thousands of years.  Hence, the reason we call Vitamin D the sunshine vitamin.  When sunlight (specifically UV-B radiation) hits our skin it reacts with some chemicals (7-dehydrocholesterol) to start making Vitamin D. The process is complex, long and not very interesting.
Why exactly is it imporant to get enough Vitamin D?  Well, studies show that low levels of Vitamin D results in bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other ailments.  Some studies suggest that appropriate levels of Vitamin D can improve brain function and ward of cancer.  Vitamin D is an essential part of bone growth in children because it makes it possible to absorb calcium.  It can also prevent osteoporosis later on in life.  The most well-known health problem associated with Vitamin D deficiency is rickets{bone softening}which can cause bowlegs and other bone malformations, particulary in children.  This is why in the 1930's milk became fortified with Vitamin D.

Most family doctors now recommend infants take a Vitamin D supplement soon after they are born and for the first year of life.  At a minimum, from the time a child is born, they should be on 400 IU of Vitamin D/day.  After the age of 1, they should be up to 1,000 IU per day, and teenagers should be on 2,000 IU a day. 
Studies show that most parents stop giving a Vitamin D supplement after the age of 1.
Many parents believe that their child is getting enough essential Vitamin D from various food sources or from a daily multivitamin.  This thinking is faulty because most childrens' multivitamins do adequately supply the recommended daily dose of Vitamin D.  Also, most kids don't drink near enough milk to consume the recommended daily dose.

It is nearly impossible for children to consume the minumum recommendation of 400IU a day from foods they eat.  To demonstrate why this is so, I've provided a few examples of how much Vitamin D can be found in some common food items.

  • A child would have to drink 4 glass of milk a day to get the minimum recommended dose of 400IU (cheese and most yogurts typically do not contain D unless they have been fortified)
  • Herring(a type of fish) is a great source of Vitamin D.  Almost 1400IU for 3 ounces.  There's just one problem.  When is the last time your child ate 3 ounces of fish in one sitting let alone in one week?  
  • Other sources include shitake mushrooms, mackerel and sardines.  Last time I checked,  these aren't staple items in most kids' lunch boxs.   
  • 100IU of Vitamin D is found in any one of the following.: 8 ounces of Cow’s milk, 8 ounces Rice milk or Soy milk, 8 ounces Orange juice, 8 ounces Pudding, 1/2 cup Cereal,  1/2 cup ofYogurt, (such as Danimals) ** Remember shop carefully though.  These items must state they have been fortified with Vitamin D otherwise they do not provide your children with a source of Vitamin D.
Today we see many children spending more time indoors with video games and computers; drinking less milk, and if they do go outdoors they are coated with sunscreen.
If your child is very sun sensitive, obviously you don't want them to get a sunburn or worse cancer.  The problem is, now we have to worry about them developing bone disease, diabetes and  heart problems.

What's a parent to do?

Well, reasonable sun exposure is one option
(without sunscreen).  10-15 minutes several times a week is the recommendation.  Of course, I'm not suggesting you let your child bake in the sun at high noon.  However, there is no harm in letting your child play outdoors in the sunny weather during off peak hours.  We really need to stop demonizing the sun.  Remember the key word is reasonable sun exposure

For those who live in more Northern regions, this is not always possible due to the weather.
This is why many health professionals believe it is best to supplement children with Vitamin D if they are unable to get it from traditional methods.  Supplementation is a very safe alternative.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatrics both reccommend a supplement of 400IU daily for newborns to teens.  {note-Infants who drink 16-17 ounces of formula, which contains Vitamin D, or Vitamin D fortified milk do not need to take a supplement.  Exlusively breastfed babies should take a 200IU-400IU supplement daily.  Always check with your doctor before supplementing} 
Vitamin D supplements can be found in almost all pharmacies or health food stores.

So, has your child recieved his/her dose of Sunny D today?  Are you opposed to supplemenation or have you already started doing so?  I'd love to hear your feedback on this subject.