Vitamin D testing for children

Vitamin D is a nutrient needed by the body to maintain strong bones and for overall health. It helps the body to absorb calcium from food, which is one of the main building blocks of bone tissue. Vitamin D is also important for healthy muscles and nerves, and for a properly functioning immune system.1 You need sunlight on your skin for your body to be able to make vitamin D, but this need has to be balanced with the risks of sun exposure including sunburn and skin damage.2

Children and unborn babies also need vitamin D for bone growth and development. Most children will not obtain sufficient vitamin D to meet their needs from foods alone, sunlight or supplementation is also required. Food sources of vitamin D include fresh fatty fish, liver, mushrooms and egg yolks. Some foods also have vitamin D added to them during their manufacture, such as margarine and some milk and dairy products. All infant formulas are fortified with vitamin D.2

Speak to your doctor if you are concerned that your child may be low in vitamin D. Risk factors for vitamin D insufficiency include:

  • Having dark skin
  • Lacking sun exposure
  • If the mother has a vitamin D insufficiency and is exclusively breastfeeding
  • Taking medicines that reduce vitamin D levels

Children with one or more risk factor should be screened using a simple blood test to measure vitamin D status. A reading taken at the beginning and end of winter can also be helpful for your doctor to determine the level of supplementation your child may need.3