RECOMMENDATION: To avoid your child developing rickets, the Vitamin D Association advises that they are supplemented with a minimum of 600IU per day in accordance with the US guidelines. If you are concerned about your child’s vitamin D levels, speak to your GP.
Rickets was largely eradicated in the UK during the twentieth century, assisted by government policies of administering cod liver oil to school children and milk at breaktime. However, over the last 15 years cases of rickets in the UK have risen fourfold. This is due to the popularity of suncream, official advice to avoid the sun, an increasing amount of time spent indoors, growth in ethnic minority populations and poor diets.
Rickets (or Osteomalacia in adults) is a condition that causes the bones to become soft and weak and leads to skeletal deformities and swelling. It is caused by an acute deficiency of vitamin D, inhibiting the body’s ability to regulate the absorption of calcium which is crucial for effective bone mineralisation. It can be very painful and uncomfortable for the child, and can lead to a delay or inability to walk in infants and toddlers.
Fortunately, rickets is easily treatable with high doses of vitamin D that can reverse the effects of weakened bones. But it is important to take a sensible attitude towards the sun to avoid the condition. Short periods of sun exposure without suncreamduring the middle of the day in summer are necessary to allow vitamin D to be made in the skin (note: skin should never be allowed to burn).