Children’s Vitamins: Are They Necessary?

Vitamin supplements are frequently viewed by parents as an insurance against nutrition deficiencies. Often they make children pop down pills without consulting a doctor. But are these pills actually healthy for your child or can there be risks posed by them?

Do Kids Need a Daily Vitamins Dose?
Parents that follow the Food Pyramid guidelines for their child’s diet and nutrition likely don’t need to supplement their child’s diet with a daily vitamin. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you should give vitamin supplements only when your child’s pediatrician or dietician says so.

Your child needs vitamins and minerals for nourishment and development. However, he needs them only in small amounts, which can be easily met through a well balanced diet. Healthy foods are not only vitamin-rich sources, they also pack in other essential nutrients. Scientists are always discovering new and added benefits of various food types. For example, fish is a good source for Vitamin D, but new studies have also linked it to a healthy heart and mind.

A food guide pyramid (for children ages 2 to 6) can aid you in making healthy eating choices for your child. It informs you about the number of servings for each food group including veggies, fruits, milk, meat and fat. It is a great tool for parents who want to plan a healthy diet for their kids so that they don’t miss their daily dose of vitamins, minerals and other vital nutrients.

When Should Vitamin Supplements be Given?
A healthy diet is the key to good nutrition. But is your child eating healthy? Or do you have any developmental or health concerns about him? When you are in doubt, check with your child’s pediatrician or a dietician. In some cases, doctors might recommend a vitamin supplement.

Picky eaters are a common cause of concern for parents of preschoolers. Many mothers are at their wits’ end when it comes to feeding a child with a poor appetite and erratic eating habits. Not surprisingly, this can make the use of multivitamins an attractive idea. While parents should continue to offer their child a good nutritious diet, if your pediatrician okays the use of a daily vitamin, then feel free to go ahead with a supplement.

Another case that justifies a vitamin supplement is that of a vegetarian or vegan child. Doctors usually prescribe a Vitamin B supplement for such children, as this vitamin is often lacking and difficult to get in a non-meat diet. Children with food allergies can also take the required vitamin dose after doctor’s approval.

Supplements are also recommended in cases where children might have developmental problems like Attention Deficit Disorder and autism. Besides these cases, many doctors today urge young children to take a Vitamin D supplement to promote good bone health and prevent rickets or soft bones.

When are Supplements Harmful?
Even if you have the go-ahead from youre doctor, it is important to remember that a daily vitamin pill can be harmful under certain conditions.

Because children’s vitamins are made to appeal to a young palate, they are often shaped and made to taste like candies. And in order to get your children to eat them, parents have been known to pass vitamins off as candy as well. Unfortunately, this is not a wise move.

Colorful, fruity chewable vitamins lure children and may encourage a child to eat many at once leading to an overdose. This can be toxic, especially in cases of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E and K. An overdose of iron in particular can even be fatal.

Also, it is important to take heed of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning that large doses of a particular vitamin can actually hamper the absorption rate, function or metabolism of another vitamin. Some studies show that excessive amounts of vitamin E can deplete vitamin A stores.

Another point to be concerned about: the type of vitamin you are giving your child. Very often, mothers give their kids supplements that are meant for adults. This can be harmful because these pills don’t work the same way in children as they do in grown-ups. Children have different nutritional requirements; giving your child a vitamin designed for an adult could cause problems by providing your child with too many nutritents.

While vitamin supplements might be helpful to a picky eater, the AAP worries that this may encourage bad habits. In particular, the AAP is concerned that the use of vitamins may send the message to a fussy eater that a daily vitamin is all that is needed to keep him healthy. This could promote poor eating and dietary habits in the future.

Vitamin Supplements for Kids – Best Practices
As the government does not ensure safety of vitamins tablets, you should be cautious when buying these pills. Here are some tips to help you make right decisions about vitamin supplements:

  • Consult your child’s health care provider before starting a vitamin supplement
  • Get your doctors advice for the right dose. See to it that the supplement does not exceed 100 percent of the US Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for your child's age.
  • Read the label to find out the amount of vitamins in the pill. Supplement the amount with enriched or fortified foods.
  • Never tell a child that supplements are just candies.
  • Check the label for added ingredients like colors or flavors. If your child has food allergies, be extra cautious. Opt for a sugar-free pill if you can.
  • Always check the expiry dates. Many supplements lose their efficacy after their shelf life.
  • Sometimes vitamins can interact with other drugs, so discuss the use of supplements if your child is currently taking medication.
  • Be sure to keep al vitamins out of reach of your child. Ideally, the supplements should be kept in a locked cabinet.
  • Keep your eyes open for warning signals after your child takes a pill. Are there symptoms like tiredness, dizziness, or lethargy? If your child displays any of these symptoms after taking a vitamin, call your doctor immediately.