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Vitamin D

Why do we need vitamin D?

Vitamin D is important for bone and muscle strength. Scientists also think it may help;

  • Reduce low mood
  • Boost the immune system
  • Help recovery from some cancers
  • Protect from heart disease.

Not having enough vitamin D can lead to;

  • Osteoporosis – weakened or less dense bones, which means they are more likely to fracture
  • Muscle pain
  • Rickets which can cause bone development problems – causing misshapen bones
  • Bone pain, poor growth and soft, weak bones.

Vitamin D is unusual because we get it from our diet and from the sun. We also need to top up Vitamin D using supplements to make sure we get enough.

Healthy Start Vouchers can exchanged for vitamin D supplements - look at the information below to find out more about the Healthy Start Scheme.

  • Vitamin D can be found in some foods;

    • Oily fish – like salmon or sardines
    • Red meats
    • Egg yolks
    • Fortified foods (added to foods during production) including some fat spreads and breakfast cereals
    • Baby formula milk ( more than 500mls a day needed to get daily Vitamin D).

    Even though the amounts of vitamin D we need are very small it is still not easy to get Vitamin D from diet alone.

  • Being out in the direct sunlight in the summer months with some of our skin exposed helps us absorb enough vitamin D (bare forearms or lower limbs can be enough).

    You would need around 10 and 25 minutes (depending on skin type/colouring) in direct sunlight .

    However using sunscreen and / or being in the shade is a barrier to absorbing Vitamin D.

    We know that sunscreen and shade are important ways to protects us from skin damage and cancers.

    So getting the balance right is important you can read more about this *here*.

  • Some groups may be more at risk from vitamin D deficiency. It is recommended that the groups below take a supplement;

    • All breastfeeding babies for first year.
    • Formula fed babies having less than 500mls formula per day.
    • Children aged 1-4.
    • Pregnant and breastfeeding women.
    • People who spend a lot of time indoors.
    • Residents in a care home.
    • People who usually wear clothes that cover up most of the skin when outdoors.
    • People with darker skin (eg. African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background) because this makes it harder to absorb vitamin D from sunlight.

    In the UK from the end of September through to April / May most people would benefit from taking a supplement.

    The Coronavirus pandemic means we have all spent more time indoors making it more important everyone considers taking a supplement.

    Women and children who qualify for the Healthy Start scheme can get free supplements containing vitamin D. See the Healthy Start website for more information

    You can talk to your local pharmacist about what supplement is right for you and your family. Find a local pharmacist *here*

  • You cannot get too much Vitamin D from sunlight (but read more about sun safety *here*).

    Taking too many vitamin D supplements for a long time can cause too much calcium in the body. This is not good for the heart or kidneys and can also weaken bones.

    The Department of Health have recommended doses for all age groups;

    Newborn to 1 years

    • Babies under 12 months need no more than 25 micrograms a day.

    Aged 1 to 11 years

    • No more than 50 micrograms a day is needed as a supplement.

    Aged 11 years and over

    • 10 micrograms a day as a supplement is enough for most people aged 11 years and older (including pregnant and breastfeeding women).
    • More than 100 micrograms vitamin D a day could be harmful.

    Pre-existing conditions

    If you or your child have a pre-existing medical condition you should talk to your GP before starting a supplement.

    If your doctor has recommended you or your child take a different amount of vitamin D you should follow their advice.

  • What is Healthy Start?

    Healthy Start is a national scheme to improve health. You could qualify if you're on low income or benefits and are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under the age of four. You also qualify if you're pregnant and under 18.

    Your midwife, health visitor or other health professional can support you to sign up. You will be sent vouchers for cow’s milk, fresh/frozen fruit and vegetables and first infant formula milk. These can be used in local shops or supermarkets. You will also receive vouchers to exchange in pharmacies for:

    • Women’s vitamins (contain Vitamin C, D and Folic Acid) - available from week 10 of pregnancy up to baby’s first birthday
    • Children’s Vitamins (contain Vitamin A, C and D) – from ages 6 months to 4 years

    For families who are not eligible for the scheme, all Norfolk Lloyds Pharmacies sell Healthy Start vitamins at a cheaper price than branded vitamins.

    For more information on the scheme and a list of shops accepting vouchers *Click Here*.  

  • It is very unlikely that babies can get enough vitamin D safely from sunlight alone. Vitamin D is important for their bone strength, growth and plays a part in boosting the immune system too.

    Breastfed babies

    • It is recommended that all breastfed babies have a vitamin D supplement from birth.
    • A vitamin D supplement is advised because babies cannot get enough from sunlight and the ‘dose' in breastmilk is not high enough. Breastfeeding provides enough of all the other vitamins.
    • Your local pharmacist (find yours *here*) can advise you on a suitable supplement for your baby.
    • You may be eligible for healthy start vitamins which include Vitamin D – read more *here*.

    Formula fed babies

    • Your baby does not need a supplement if they are having more than 500mls of formula in 24 hrs.
    • Formula has added vitamin D. Most fully bottle fed babies will be having this much after the very early days (4 or more 4oz bottles in 24 hrs).

    You may need to give a supplement if;

    • Your baby is having a mixture of breast and bottle feeds so having less than 500mls of formula in 24hrs.
    • They are older than 6 months and having more solid foods so reducing their formula milk intake.

    Read more *here* about the dose your baby will need.

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