Vitamin D Deficiency In Children

September 14, 2023

Vitamin D Deficiency In Children

As a parent, your child’s well-being is always your top priority. However, there’s one crucial aspect of their health that can be overlooked – their vitamin D levels.

In the UK, around 16% of children have a vitamin D deficiency, which can result in various health issues like rickets, impaired growth, and bone deformities.

At Childhealthy, we are committed to providing parents and caregivers with reliable and up-to-date information on all aspects of child health.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss what vitamin D is, why it’s vital for children, and how to recognise the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. We’ll also provide practical advice on how to boost your child’s vitamin D intake and prevent the risk of vitamin deficiency.

A dad showing his child how to plant a seed in soil

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that helps our bodies to absorb calcium and phosphorus, both of which are essential for building and maintaining healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. It also plays a crucial role in regulating the immune system and supporting overall health.

Our bodies produce vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. However, we can also obtain it from certain foods, including oily fish, egg yolks, and fortified cereals.

Benefits of vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that provides a wide range of benefits, particularly for children.

Here are some of the key benefits of vitamin D:

  • Strong bones and teeth – vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, two minerals crucial for healthy bones and teeth. Adequate vitamin D intake can prevent conditions like rickets and dental problems.
  • Improved immune system – vitamin D plays a vital role in supporting the immune system, helping to fight off infections and reducing the risk of autoimmune diseases.
    Reduced risk of chronic diseases – higher levels of vitamin D may help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
  • Mood regulation – vitamin D may help to regulate mood and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.
  • Improved muscle function – vitamin D is essential for muscle function, helping to improve strength, balance, and overall physical performance which is vital in children.

Vitamin D provides numerous benefits and it’s important to ensure that children receive adequate amounts through their diet, sun exposure, and supplementation if necessary.

Recommended vitamin D intake for children

The NHS recommends that all babies up to the age of 1 year should get 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day. From the age of 1, they should have 10 micrograms per day.

The Department of Health and Social Care advises that babies from birth to 1 year of age should be given a daily supplement of vitamin D of 8.5 to 10 micrograms if they are:

  • Breastfed
  • Formula-fed and are having less than 500ml a day – infant formula is already fortified with vitamin D

It’s also important to encourage your child to spend time outdoors, and to eat a healthy and balanced diet that includes foods rich in vitamin D, such as oily fish and eggs.

What causes vitamin D deficiency in children?

There are different causes of vitamin D deficiency in children, and they can include:

  • Lack of exposure to sunlight – children who spend too much time indoors or wear clothing that covers most of their skin are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. Children who live in areas with limited sunlight or those who have darker skin may not produce enough vitamin D naturally.
  • Inadequate dietary intake – some children may not consume enough vitamin D-rich foods, especially if they follow a strict vegan or vegetarian diet.
  • Underlying conditions – children with an underlying condition that affects their ability to absorb vitamin D, such as coeliac disease or cystic fibrosis may have low vitamin D levels.
  • Lack of nutrition – the leading cause of vitamin D deficiency in children is a lack of nutrition. Children who do not consume a well-balanced diet that includes foods rich in vitamin D are at a higher risk of deficiency. For instance, children who consume a diet high in processed foods and low in fresh fruits and vegetables are more likely to have inadequate levels of vitamin D.

It is important to address these causes to prevent vitamin D deficiency in children, as this nutrient is crucial for the growth and development of bones.

What prevents vitamin D absorption?

Some children may have difficulty absorbing vitamin D properly due to underlying health conditions or certain medications.

Health conditions such as Crohn’s disease or kidney disease can impair the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D effectively.

Certain medications like anticonvulsants and glucocorticoids can interfere with vitamin D absorption as well.

Parents need to consult with a healthcare professional if their child has an underlying condition or is taking medication that may affect their ability to absorb vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms in children

Vitamin D deficiency can cause a variety of symptoms in children, and parents should be aware of these signs to ensure early detection and treatment.

Here are some common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in children:

  • Delayed growth and development
  • Weak bones and fractures
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dental problems, such as weak or brittle teeth
  • Frequent infections
  • Fatigue and general weakness
  • Irritability or mood changes

If you suspect that your child has a vitamin D deficiency, it is essential to get them tested. A simple blood test can confirm whether your child has low levels of vitamin D, and a treatment plan can be provided.

Blood test for vitamin D

A blood test for vitamin D measures the level of vitamin D in the blood. This test is used to diagnose and monitor vitamin D deficiency in both children and adults.

If a healthcare professional suspects that a child has a vitamin D deficiency based on their symptoms or risk factors, they may order a blood test to confirm the diagnosis. The test may also be used to monitor the effectiveness of vitamin D supplementation.

During the blood test, a healthcare professional will draw a small sample of blood from a vein in the child’s arm. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.

The laboratory measures the level of vitamin D in the blood to determine if it’s too low.

A blood test for vitamin D is useful for diagnosing and monitoring vitamin D deficiency in children. If you suspect that your child has a vitamin D deficiency, you should consult with a healthcare provider to determine if a blood test is necessary.

Sources of vitamin D for children

Vitamin D is essential for babies’ and children’s growth and development. There are various sources of this vitamin that parents can include in their child’s diet and daily routine.

Here are some common sources of vitamin D for babies and children.


Sunlight is an essential source of vitamin D, and exposure to it can help the body produce more. Infants and young children should be exposed to sunlight for short periods, ideally before 10 am and after 4 pm, to avoid the strong midday sun. It’s essential to take precautions to avoid sunburn and heatstroke. For more information, please read our article on sun safety for children.


Vitamin D supplements are recommended for breastfed babies from birth until they are receiving at least 500 ml of formula a day. Exclusively formula-fed infants do not need vitamin D supplements as the formula is fortified with vitamin D. Children who do not get enough vitamin D from their diet or sunlight may also need vitamin D supplements under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

For more info, please refer to our guide on the best vitamins and supplements for children.

Vitamin D-rich foods

Some foods naturally contain vitamin D, and others are fortified with this nutrient. Examples of foods high in vitamin D that are suitable for babies and children include:

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified infant cereal and formula
  • Fortified milk and dairy products
  • Fortified orange juice

Babies between six and twelve months old can be introduced to small amounts of vitamin D-rich foods as part of their weaning diet, but breastmilk or formula should still be the main source of nutrition.

Book a vitamin D blood test with Childhealthy

At Childhealthy, we offer vitamin deficiency blood tests for children and nutritional assessments, led by our specialist Paediatric Dietitian, Bianca Parau. Our team provides an expert level of care and will make your child feel at ease throughout the appointment. Book a nutritional assessment today.

If you know which blood tests your child needs, please register with us and then contact for more information.






Disclaimer: Information contained in this article is intended as general advice and does not replace a medical assessment. If you are concerned about your child please contact your doctor for advice.


Related articles

a classroom of children March 1, 2021

COVID Vaccine Trials For Children

Read more a mother and child sat at a table drawing out letters January 28, 2021

Tips To Help Children’s Mental Health In Lockdown

Read more a child smiling whilst looking out the window and holding her stuffed animal December 18, 2020

COVID-19 Vaccinations And Children

Read more

Book your appointment

Clinic, remote appointments and home visits are available daily.

We can always find a time to suit you, so please do ask if you are having difficulty finding a suitable time.

Book an appointment