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Vitamins for children: Should they take them?

Last Modified: January 13, 2022

Family Medicine, Women & Children

Vitamins for children

Parents are consistently making decisions for the health and well-being of their children, including whether they should start giving them vitamins. Thankfully, we caught up with Allison Meyer, MD, PPG – Pediatrics, to help answer our questions while sharing some insight on these popular supplements and if they’re necessary.

Do children need to take vitamins or supplements? 

Generally, most children who eat a well-rounded diet do not need a vitamin or supplement. However, some children might have medical conditions that would require certain supplementations, so it is always best to speak with your child’s pediatrician before starting them.  

In what scenario would a child benefit from taking vitamins or supplements? 

There are a few exceptions where children might need to incorporate specific vitamins and supplements into their routine. For example, all breastfeeding infants should receive 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day (children over one need 600 IUs a day). Another example would be premature infants. Upon discharge from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), they are often sent home with a multivitamin containing iron. Additionally, children who are very picky eaters, those who have special diets they must follow, or a food allergy may also need a vitamin or supplementation at some point.  

How do parents know if a daily vitamin regimen is suitable for their child?

I recommend speaking with your child’s pediatrician before starting any vitamin or supplement regimen to make sure they are necessary and that you are choosing an age-appropriate one. In general, I would advise not utilizing the gummy vitamins for your child because they are bad for their teeth.

Do children have different nutrient needs than adults? 

Children need the same nutrients as adults, but they generally need them in different amounts. For example, infants need supplementation with Vitamin D if they are breastfeeding. Another supplement that children can be deficient in is iron, which we typically find in red meats, legumes, and certain leafy greens and vegetables. Generally, children low in iron are those individuals who drink milk excessively, are picky eaters or are adolescent females.     

Should parents be concerned about their child getting too much of one nutrient? 

When taken correctly, vitamins won’t do any harm. However, megadosing, a dose that is many times higher than the recommended daily allowance, can happen, especially with vitamins like A, C or D. If this occurs, it can produce toxic symptoms, including nausea, headaches, rashes and more. If you believe this has happened, please call 911 or Poison Control. With that said, it’s important to always store vitamins and medications out of reach of children.

Final thoughts

It’s important to note that vitamins should not take the place of a healthy diet. However, if you are concerned that your child isn’t getting enough nutrients, please speak with their pediatrician or primary care provider.

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