Should my child be taking Multivitamins?

This is a common question I get asked as a GP. We know that growing children have nutritional needs. The Department of Health recommends that children between six months to five years are given daily vitamin supplements.

If your child eats a balanced diet then they may not need supplements however. A daily healthy diet consists of protein such as lean meat or fish, pulses or eggs and five portions of fruits/vegetables. Seek advice from your health visitor, GP or pharmacist. They may advise that in those with chronic diseases like asthma or a restrictive diet eg veganism, supplements be given. For fussy eaters just remember that supplements are not the answer and should not be used to justify a poor diet. Focus on improving eating habits rather than relying on multivitamins.

Vitamin toxicity can occur so be careful about giving more than one supplement such as cod liver oil and a multivitamin tablet – as cod liver oil has vitamin A. Treat vitamins as medicines, keep out of children’s reach and do not exceed the recommended dose.

A Word About Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important to regulate the body’s calcium which is needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight, which occurs in sufficient amounts from March to September. Some foods have vitamin D such as oily fish, red meat and egg yolks. However, for the winter months a supplement maybe needed.

The Department of Health recommends that:

  1. children aged 1-4 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D
  2. for children over the age of 5 (during autumn and winter) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D.

The Department of Health recommends that you take a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D throughout the year if you:

  1. are not often outdoors – for example, if you’re frail or housebound
  2. usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors eg religious clothing
  3. if you’re from a minority ethnic group with dark skin, such as African, African-Caribbean or south Asian

High levels of Vitamin D can affect heart and kidneys. Children aged 1-10 years shouldn’t have more than 50mcg a day. Infants under 12 months shouldn’t have more than 25mcg a day.

Click here for more information on Vitamin D