Healthy Families

Could Lack of Vitamin D Be Making Your Child Anemic?

Could Lack of Vitamin D Be Making Your Child Anemic?

 

Is your child looking pale? Does he seem to tire easily, or have less energy? Does she have less of an appetite? It's possible that he or she is anemic, and according to a recent study of patients with chronic kidney disease from Johns Hopkins Children's Center, the culprit could be a lack of vitamin D. Healthy Life spoke to area pediatrician Dr. Azmat Saeed about anemia in children and what parents should know about it.

What is Anemia?

Anemia refers to the condition of low levels of oxygen-carrying red blood cells (RBC) in the blood, either from a decrease in production of an increase in destruction of red blood cells. Anemia is quite common and can often go undetected as the body can function even at low levels of RBC before problems arise. Severe forms of anemia can lead to heart, kidney and bone growth issues, to name a few.  The Johns Hopkins looks specifically at vitamin D deficiency as a possible factor because vitamin D affects chemicals in the body related to RBC production and bone growth. The bone marrow is the major source of RBC production in our bodies so therefore vitamin D deficiency will affect RBC production.

Who Gets it?

Children most likely to be anemic are premature babies, children with poor nutrition or those with frequent or chronic illnesses such as celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, Crohn's disease and colitis. Children who are exclusively breast fed are at risk for anemia as well, as breast milk does not have enough vitamin D or iron content that most children require.

What Can We Do?

Make sure your child is getting enough vitamin D. Although some foods such as fish, liver and egg yolks provide some vitamin D, the two most reliable sources for this essential nutrient are fortified milk and from our own skin, when it's exposed to sunlight. There's the rub. What about the dangers of extended sunlight exposure? Dr. Saeed says the child doesn't need an enormous amount of sunlight exposure to generate a sufficient amount of vitamin D; at least 30 minutes of total body exposure a week, or two hours per week of head exposure. It's a fact that extended sun exposure can be harmful and sunscreen is essential. Some researchers suggest letting your child out in the sun for the first ten minutes without sunscreen, and then apply sunblock. If we're smart and vigilant, kids can get the nutrient benefits of sunlight and avoid the harmful effects of extended UV ray exposure.

Multi-vitamins and calcium supplements are also a readily available option to boost your child's vitamin D and iron levels and prevent the nutritional cause for anemia. Regular visits to your pediatrician are the single most important defense. Early warning signs from poor nutrition or development can be identified and corrected.

 

(Box question)

Q: Can anemia in my child be reversed?

A: Most cases of anemia are reversible once the primary cause of the problem is identified. That's why it's vital for children to have regular visits with their pediatrician or family doctor.

 

Contributor:

Azmat Saeed, MD

609 East Main Street

Endicott, NY