Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2010;81(6):750

See related article on vitamin D supplementation

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D helps protect your bones and helps your body use calcium. You can get vitamin D from sunlight or by eating certain foods. Fish, cheese, and eggs are natural sources of vitamin D. In the United States, cereals, milk, and many orange juices have vitamin D added to them.

How do I know if my child is low in vitamin D?

Children with low vitamin D may not have any symptoms for a long time. Very low levels of vitamin D can cause irritability, tiredness, developmental delays, or seizures. It can also cause rickets, which is when bones get weak and break easily.

Does my child need extra vitamin D?

All infants, children, and adolescents need at least 400 IU of vitamin D daily. Infants who are fed formula most likely get enough vitamin D. Infants who are breastfed need extra vitamin D from supplement drops. Children and adolescents who drink less than 1 liter or quart (32 oz) of milk each day also need extra vitamin D.

Many children's multivitamins have vitamin D in them. Check the label to be sure there is 400 IU in each serving. You may need to add a vitamin D chewable tablet or infant's drops to reach 400 IU.

If your child has a chronic illness or takes medicines for seizures, talk to your doctor about whether your child needs extra vitamin D.

Should my child spend time in the sun?

Infants should be kept out of direct sunlight until they are six months of age. This will lower their chance of skin cancer later in life. Children with darker skin may need more time in the sun to get the same amount of vitamin D as children with lighter skin.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

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