Testing vitamin D levels in children

As vitamin D is essential for developing strong bones and a healthy immune system, it’s important that children get enough of this nutrient. Bone growth is an essential component of childhood development so ensuring children have adequate vitamin D helps reduce the risk of health concerns such as osteoporosis later in life.1

There are a few ways you can test your children’s vitamin D levels, unfortunately all of which include drawing a little blood.1 However, such measures aren’t needed unless your healthcare professional has identified signs of vitamin D deficiency.2

What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?

Before your healthcare professional draws any conclusions about a possible vitamin D deficiency, they may narrow down the possibilities by determining whether your child has an increased risk of deficiency. Children that would fall under this contingency include those who:1

  • Do not receive enough sun exposure
  • Have dark skin tones
  • Reside in southern state of Australia
  • Are overweight (as vitamin D is stored in fat tissues and may not be used efficiently)

These risk factors aside, your healthcare professional may conclude that your child has low vitamin D levels if they report frequent, indistinct bone pain or muscle discomfort.1 In addition, consistent hints of bone weakness may be due to vitamin D deficiency.3

The available tests

If you deem it necessary to identify your child’s vitamin D levels, there are two possible options you can choose from:

  • Ask a healthcare professional to perform the test: request a vitamin D blood test, or 25(OH)D test – the scientific abbreviation of vitamin D’s active form.2
  • Conduct an in-home test: take a quick prick of your child’s finger and take a sample of the blood using a small piece of blotter paper. After the sample is dried, you simply mail it to a laboratory of you or your doctor’s choosing, and the results are sent back to you at a later date.2

To ensure children maintain healthy levels of vitamin D, there are a few lifestyle habits you can encourage. For example, as the sun is estimated to deliver 90 per cent of the vitamin D our bodies need, prompt your children to play outside.1

However, there is such a thing as too much sun. Wearing sunscreen and appropriate clothing are recommended precautions. It doesn’t take particularly long for the skin to absorb enough ultraviolet B rays needed to produce vitamin D.1

References
  1. Vitamin D Council. Testing for vitamin D. Date Unknown. https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/testing-for-vitamin-d/ 23/04/2015
  2. Lab Tests Online. Vitamin D Tests. May 2013. http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/vitamin-d/tab/test/ 23/04/2015