Babies and toddlers of African and African-Caribbean origin are amongst the most at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
All pregnant and breastfeeding women are urged to take a daily vitamin D supplement to ensure their babies get enough and are at less risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and a deficiency can cause bone deformities in children and bone pain, tenderness and muscle weakness as a result of osteomalacia in adults.
There is a rising number of reports of rickets (a condition where the bones become weak and soft) in children across the world, particularly amongst developing communities.
People get most of their vitamin D from the sun when the skin is exposed to summer sunlight. Those with darker skin need more sun to produce as much vitamin D and so are at risk of not getting enough in the UK to last through the winter months.
Those who cover up for cultural reasons and younger women are also at risk. Taking an appropriate supplement during pregnancy and while breastfeeding will increase both the mother’s and her baby’s vitamin D stores and reduce the baby’s risk of developing rickets.
Women and children who are supported by the Healthy Start scheme can get free vitamin supplements containing the recommended amounts of vitamin D; the women’s vitamins contain folic acid and vitamins D and C and Healthy Start children’s vitamin drops contain vitamins A, C and D
The symptoms of rickets include:
•Bone pains, often in the legs
•Muscle pains or weakness
•Soft skull or leg bones (‘bow-legs’)
•Weak teeth and delayed growth of teeth
When rickets is very severe, it can cause low levels of calcium in the blood, leading to muscle cramps, seizures and breathing difficulties.
By buying fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and milk pregnant women will ensure that their children get plenty of vitamins they need.
The New Black