With Dr Agnès Linglart, pediatrician
Essential for both adults and babies, vitamin D often requires supplementation in young children to avoid deficiencies. But concretely, what is vitamin D? What is supplementation for? How to recognize deficiencies? We take stock with Dr. Agnès Linglart, pediatrician.
Vitamin D, what is it?
Vitamin D is a very important compound for the body. This will in particular help to increase the concentration of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. This is very important for babies, as Agnès Linglart explains: “Vitamin D is essential for a child’s growth. It will also allow the mineralization of the skeleton, whether it is the development of bones, cartilage and teeth. Vitamin D also helps reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases. It plays a key role in improving the health of populations”. Vitamin D also helps develop nerve transmission, blood circulation and good muscle contraction.
Food, sun… Where to find vitamin D?
It is found in particular in certain foods, as detailed by Dr. Agnès Linglart: “There are not a large number of foods in which vitamin D is present. They are mainly found in oily fish (sardines, mackerel, etc.). This is also why previous generations consumed cod liver oil when they were children. Vitamin D can also be found in certain meats such as veal, chicken or raw egg yolk.
However, if these foods can help increase the level of vitamin D in his body, it is the sun that provides the main vitamin D contribution. Indeed, exposed to the sun and its ultraviolet rays, our body can manufacture it -even a synthesis of vitamin D. According to the National Agency for Health and Food Safety (ANSES), it would be enough to expose yourself to the sun for about twenty minutes a day (generally in the morning or at the end of the afternoon) in order to have its daily intake thanks to the synthesis of the vitamin.
Why are newborns and young children given vitamin D?
Exposure to the sun and food are therefore essential sources of vitamin D. However, the levels are not often reached in adults and especially in babies, as Dr. Agnès Linglart reminds us: “In France, Sun exposure is often not sufficient to have sufficient vitamin D levels. The same applies to food, mainly for children and infants, whose milk does not provide enough vitamin D”. In addition, exposure to the sun is contraindicated in infants, because the first years of life, they have too fragile skin. In addition, some regions are less exposed to the sun, which will reduce the synthesis of the vitamin and its level in the body of children.
As a result, vitamin D supplementation is most often prescribed for infants and young children, as Dr Agnès Linglart explains: “We recommend that parents give children specific medications that allow the administration of doses of vitamin D, and thus fill this need for supplements”. These drugs include Adrigyl, Deltius and ZymaD. Generally, these drugs are administered in the form of drops to be given daily. It is important to respect the precautions for use of these medicines and not to use them without a medical prescription.
Up to what age should babies be given vitamin D? How long ?
The need for vitamin D supplements therefore requires taking medication in young children. As a rule, this daily treatment will last up to 18 months, even 24 months of the child. Everything will obviously depend on the instructions of the health professional. After this period, the need for vitamin D supplement is still there! Medication will still be prescribed during the winter months, due to less frequent exposure to the sun. The discontinuation of the prescription will be based on age and growth. It can also continue into adulthood, depending on medical recommendations.
Vitamin D supplementation in infants: what are the risks of food supplements related to overdose?
In addition to natural sources of vitamin D and medicinal sources prescribed by doctors, you can also find food supplements on the internet or in pharmacies that help increase your vitamin D level. Is this a good idea? Not really, explains Dr. Agnès Linglart: “Food supplements contain less precise doses of vitamins, compared to drugs. In this case, too high intake of food supplements in young children can cause damage to their health. There is a risk hypercalcemia, that is to say a risk of having too much calcium in the body. This phenomenon of too high a dose of calcium can lead to kidney damage such as lithiasis”.
Moreover, even with drugs, a dosage error can always occur in the dose delivered to the child. If in doubt, contact a poison Control Center without waiting.
Vitamin D deficiency: what risk factors?
Contrary to overdose, babies and children may have Vitamin D deficiencies. Are there populations more at risk than others in babies? The risk factors will be mainly environmental. If the infant lives in an area where the sun is less present, the risk of deficiency may be greater. Same for skin color. Indeed, the darker a baby’s skin, the less ultraviolet will pass through his skin, which will make the production of vitamin D in the body slower and less important. Babies who are breastfed and whose mothers themselves have vitamin D deficiencies may also be at risk for deficiencies.
What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in infants? What aggravation?
In the event of vitamin D deficiency in infants, the main risk will be rickets, as Dr. Agnès Binglart explains: “Rickets is a growth and bone disorder. It will prevent children from growing and will cause insufficient calcium absorption from the bones. There may be deformities in the bones of the skull notably “. There may also be a wider gap between the knees when the feet touch. Anyway, if rickets still exists in France, it is very rare. However, it is important to monitor your child’s vitamin D level, especially in the presence of risk factors.
Vitamin D intake: what recommendations and needs for babies and children?
Every year, new recommendations are released by health organizations regarding the ideal vitamin D level for babies and children. The French Society of Pediatrics has just updated its recommendations: thus, for children from 0 to 2 years old, the recommended rate is 400 IU (international units). For children aged between 2 and 18 years, the supplementation is situated between 400 and 800 IU per day.