Vit-D deficiency in children rose multifold after Covid — here’s how it can affect your child’s mental and physical health
Vitamin D deficiencyamong children is observed amongst 2-14 year olds.
- It has both short-term and long-term effects on physical and mental health in children, say doctors.
- Doctors suggest a daily exposure of at least 30 minutes to increase Vitamin D levels.
AdvertisementPandemic-induced lockdowns have increased the number of cases of Vitamin D deficiency amongst young children, according to Indian pediatricians. While those born just before and during the pandemic seem to be the worst affected, even adolescents are low on this sunshine vitamin as they spent two formative years within the confines of their homes.
“The overall number of children observed to have vitamin D deficiency increased many fold during and after Covid. The majority of children affected by Vitamin D deficiency in relation to Covid were infants and adolescents,” Dr Arvind Kumar, director & HOD - Paediatrics, Fortis Hospital, New Delhi, told Business Insider India.
The condition has been observed the most in 2-14 year olds. “Not directly but indirectly due to lack of sun exposure, playtime and improper diet, Covid did trigger Vitamin D deficiency in children,” said Dr Yogesh Kumar Gupta, consultant- pediatrics, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru.
Even before the pandemic, India had a fairly high incidence of this condition. About 151.9 million children were found to be suffering from Vitamin D deficiency in India in 2019, according to a report by Nature, which was released in October 2022.
For a few children, others factors too play a part. Babies who are born prematurely or those who are breastfed are at higher risk of developing this deficiency.
“Babies who are born prematurely have a high risk of vitamin D deficiency. Breastfed babies are also at risk, though breast milk is the best type of food for babies, but it does not contain much vitamin D,” Dr Ashok Gawdi, consultant pediatrics, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai, told Business Insider India.
Why do babies need Vitamin D?
Children with prolonged deficiency of this vitamin may have stunting, and can also develop rickets, osteomalacia, bone pain and muscle weakness. Rickets is a condition that causes softening, thinning, weakening and deforming of the bones that can occur in growing children.
“In the long term, this deficiency can further cause skeletal deformities, brittle bones, frequent fractures and lead to premature osteoporosis,” Varsha Gorey, clinical nutritionist at Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai, told Business Insider India.
It is also essential for internal homeostasis and the proper functioning of the human body. Homeostasis refers to the tendency to maintain a stable, relatively constant internal environment in the body. Deficiency leads to relative inefficiency of the immune system and the chances of catching an infection become high.
AdvertisementDoctors also say that its deficiency can hamper the mental health of a child as well. “Vitamin D deficiency also has a major impact on mental health. Its deficiencies lead to a poor immune system, development of hypertension, poor growth and mental health issues like depression,” Dr Kumar added.
In a 2019 study published in the Journal of Hypertension, researchers examined 775 children from birth to age 18, and found that vitamin D deficiency in children in early childhood had a double risk of elevated systolic blood pressure between 3-18 year olds. The study further said that high systolic blood pressure can further lead to cardiovascular diseases in the longer term.
Children need daily sun exposure
It is very well known that sunlight is the best source of Vitamin D and doctors suggest a daily exposure of at least 30 minutes.
“For sunlight to provide enough Vitamin D, a daily exposure of 20-30 minutes in infants and 30-45 minutes in older children over 32- 40% of body surface area is recommended 5 times a week during noon (11 am to 3 pm),” Dr Kumar further added.
Other than sunlight, doctors also recommend adding a few items in the daily diet of children. Fish, liver oil, eggs, milk butter, cheese, and mushrooms are some of the recommended items.
Advertisement“Fortifications of milk, oil, ghee cheese, and butter is an important, preventive health measure,” Dr Kumar said.
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