It’s not news to learn that children need vitamin D in their diet. Everyone does. However, children seem to be consistently lacking this bone building and immune strengthening vitamin. What’s worse is that research is pointing to serious ill effects beyond deficiency in the children who lack vitamin D.

Eliza Barclay recently reported on NPR’s health blog “Shots” about two studies that tested sick children who entered hospital ICUs. Both studies found most of these children to be deficient in vitamin D, and researchers concluded that children with a vitamin D deficiency are more likely to to be sick than children with a proper level of the vitamin. Also, children with the low vitamin D levels are more likely to have longer hospital stays than other children.

The Institute of Medicine says children need 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests children get 400 IU per day. It’s also recommended that children take a supplement to ensure they are getting enough.

Outside of supplements, good sources of vitamin D are found in eggs, fish, and fortified foods like milk, cereal, orange juice, and yogurt.

The news is alarming. When the problem can be remedied with a simple supplement, it’s curious why so many are deficient. Regardless of the reason, the results are so stark that parents need to act. Essentially, if your child is low in vitamin D and they get sick, they’ll have a more severe case than their peers who are sufficient.

Tasty and low-cost supplements are available in nearly all grocery, super, or drug stores. As children return back to school and will be exposed to many more germs, especially during the impending cold and flu season, be certain to give your kids an extra fighting chance with vitamin D both in their diet and through vitamin supplements.

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