Vitamin D is very important for a child’s growth. It helps in the strong development of bones, teeth and muscles. Since it is difficult to attain vitamin D fully through diet, the body usually relies on its own production which in turn is dependent on the sun’s action on the skin.
Importance of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for children as well as adults. It helps in the development and growth of the bones. It is also necessary for a baby in the womb. This vitamin helps in the absorption of calcium. As a matter of fact, if pregnant women fail to get the required amount of vitamin D during pregnancy, the child has a higher chance of developing neonatal hypocalcaemia or rickets at a later stage.
Also, deficiency of this vitamin can lead to rickets, where the tissues of the bone are not able to mineralize and thereby lead to skeletal deformities.
Vitamin D is also responsible for a healthy immune system and helps the body to fight against infections. It also prevents early arthritis. It is believed that if an appropriate amount of Vitamin D is present in an adults body, it acts as prevention against diabetes, cancer and heart diseases.
Sunlight and Vitamin D
Vitamin D is the only vitamin which can be produced by the human body and helps the body in the absorption of calcium from the diet. Also, when we step out in the sun, the sunlight turns a compound called 7 dehydrocholesterol into a form of vitamin D called vitamin D3.
Moreover, sunlight is very important as it helps in the building of the immune system, increases the oxygen content, cleanses the blood vessels, treats skin disorders like acne and fungal infections. As per a study, the amount of sun the babies are exposed to determines their height.
Despite the sunny weather of India, around 70 percent of people suffer from a deficiency of Vitamin D. Also, our eating habits play a major role towards this deficiency.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
A mild deficiency does not cause any serious symptoms other than a lethargic child with aches and pains. However, some of the more serious signs and symptoms to look out for are:
- Seizures, muscle cramps and difficulty in breathing. Though these symptoms can also be due to a deficiency of calcium
- Children may have soft bones often giving a crooked appearance. Due to weakness, these children often complain of pain in the muscles and legs. This condition is termed as rickets.
- The weight and growth of the children affected by Vitamin D deficiency are very poor and their overall growth is very slow as compared to the other children.
- Since the bones become soft, the rib cage also becomes soft which in turn affects the breathing.
- Teething tends to be late.
- Children become irritable.
- In severe form, rickets can lead to calcium deficiency in the blood.
- In rare cases, it may lead to the weakness of the heart muscles.
Prevention of Vitamin D Deficiency
This deficiency can be prevented by giving Vitamin D supplements to infants on the doctor’s recommendation. Also, the following can be done:
- Allowing children to play in the sun for sometime
- Consumption of food that is rich in multivitamins. Foods rich in Vitamin D like cheese, fish, soy milk, egg yolk, cereals, dairy products should be included in the diet. Infant formula milk is also a source of the same.
- Taking appropriate dosage of Vitamin D during pregnancy and breastfeeding helps in the prevention of the deficiency in newborn and breastfed infant.