Written by Naresh Lane, Health Visitor Playing in the sun without sun cream for short bursts helps increase levels of vitamin D. As a nation, we have become more aware of protecting ourselves against the sun’s harmful rays, but the use of sun creams over the last few decades has had an unfortunate effect - it has led to an increase in Vitamin D deficiency, which was thought to be a condition of the pre-war years. About Vitamin D Vitamin D is important because it helps the body to absorb Calcium, which in turn promotes bone growth and dental health. A deficiency of Vitamin D can cause poor growth in babies and children, as well as problems with immunity, dental problems and rickets. Our best source of Vitamin D is when our skin is exposed to sunlight
- about 90% of our Vitamin D is made in the skin with the help of sunlight. The larger the area of skin that is exposed, the more Vitamin D is likely to be produced. Babies build up a store of Vitamin D whilst in the womb, taking it from the mother. How to safely get more Vitamin D With the summer sunshine and warm days hopefully soon here, our little ones get the opportunity to enjoy more time outdoors, which is the perfect opportunity to top up levels of vitamin D. Regular short bursts of UVB exposure (sunlight) are usually enough for most people to help maintain sufficient Vitamin D levels. The best time of day for making Vitamin D in the UK is from 11am – 3pm in the months from April – October; about 10 – 15 minutes a day without sunscreen and not allowing your skin become red or sunburnt, (except for babies under 6 months who should never be exposed to direct sunlight without sun protection). This is enough time to top up your Vitamin D - any longer spent in the sun requires using sun protection with at least a factor 20. Darker skins require more exposure to sunlight to ensure adequate Vitamin D is produced. Those with darker skin, who cover up their skin or spend little time outdoors are at a higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency. There are also some foods that naturally contain Vitamin D, such as pilchards, sardines, salmon, eggs and fortified breakfast cereals. Making these a regular part of your diet will help increase Vitamin D levels. When you may need to use supplements All pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers should take a Vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms daily. Breastfed babies from the age of 6 months up to the age of 5 years also require a daily Vitamin D supplement of 7.5 – 8 micrograms daily. Breastfed babies from age of 1 month may also require supplements if their mother hasn’t taken Vitamin D during pregnancy. Babies that are having less than 500ml of formula milk after the age of 6 months also require a vitamin D supplement; they do not require vitamin supplements if they are having more than 500mls formula milk, as the milk is fortified with vitamins. Financial Help Healthy start vouchers are available to all pregnant women aged 18 years or younger - they do not need to be receiving benefits. Healthy Start vouchers are also available to all women from when they are 10 weeks pregnant until their child is 4 years old, and in receipt of benefits. Vouchers are sent out every 8 weeks and can be exchanged for vitamins, fresh or frozen fruit or vegetables or cow’s milk – speak to your midwife or Health Visitor about applying.
If you have any further questions please email Naresh at firstname.lastname@example.org.