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Vitamin D is very important for the human body. It regulates the levels of phosphorus and calcium in the blood, contributing to the healthy development of bones. Recently, many studies have shown that many diseases such as asthma, obesity and autoimmune diseases may be associated with vitamin D deficiency. 

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Sunlight provides most of the vitamin D that the human body needs. In smaller quantities vitamin D is obtained from certain foods such as margarine, liver, fish oils, egg yolk, fortified cereals and dairy products. . 

What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in children?

Vitamin D deficiency in children can cause skeletal abnormalities and short stature. It can cause a specific disease called rickets. Children with this disease may have soft bones and bone deformities.  

Initially, the symptoms of rickets can be the following: delayed teething, soft bones of the posterior area of the skull, large anterior fontanelle. The closure of the anterior fontanelle may be delayed (it usually closes between 15-18 months). Vitamin D deficiency must be addressed for the healthy development of bones. 

It is worth noting that there may be a child with vitamin D deficiency without developing any of the above symptoms.  

Some children are more likely to have vitamin D deficiency:

  • Children of African descent.
  • Children living in areas with little or no sunshine.
  • Babies that breastfeed, that do not take vitamin D supplements 
  • Children with chronic diseases that show insufficient fat absorption such as: Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis.
  • Children taking antiepileptic drugs (phenytoin or phenobarbital) or glucocorticoids for a long period of time.  
  • Children with chronic liver or kidney failure.
  • Premature babies.

The following children should take vitamin D supplements:

  • Exclusively breastfed infants or infants who are partially breastfed until they receive a litre of fortified milk with vitamin D or fortified cereals with vitamin D. 
  • Premature babies
  • Children with chronic diseases that may be related to vitamin D deficiency.   

All international paediatric organizations recommend vitamin D supplementation at a dose of 400 IU / day during the first year of lifedepending on the medicalhistory of the child. Supplementation after the age of first year of life depends on the country of residence (if there is enough sunshine), the skin colour and the presence of risk factors for vitamin D deficiency. 

Frequently Asked Questions


Should children be tested for vitamin D deficiency?
There is no need to test all children for vitamin D deficiency. According to the latest guidelines of all international paediatric associations, the measurement of vitamin D levels should be performed only in the high-risk groups mentioned above or when there is a clinical symptom compatible with vitamin D deficiency.

How is vitamin D deficiency checked?
The diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency is made by measuring the blood levels of 25-OH Vitamin D. The normal values of 25-OH vitamin D for children are not fully documented at present.

Make sure that your child gets foods rich in vitamin D.
Authored by Dr. Adamos Hadjipanayi, Paediatrician with the contribution of Dr. Elisavet Efstathiou, Paediatrician