Rickets, a condition that affects the bone development of children, is most common in babies between the ages of three and 18 months. In South Africa, this condition is most prevalent in babies and children who are either exclusively breastfed by mothers who are vitamin D and calcium deficient, kids who are fed an inadequate diet, or children who are kept indoors for long periods of time without being exposed to sunlight.
Symptoms of rickets
According to mayoclinic.org, signs and symptoms of rickets can include:
- Delayed growth
- Muscle weakness
- Pain in the spine, pelvis and legs
Because this condition causes soft and weak bones, it can cause skeletal deformities such as bowed legs or knock knees, thickened wrists and ankles and breastbone projection.
What causes a vitamin D deficiency in babies?
Our bodies produce vitamin D after the skin is exposed to sunshine. Ideally, a baby shouldn’t be in direct sunlight during the first six months of life, so he won’t get enough vitamin D from the sun – even if you live in a relatively sunny place like South Africa. Another cause of vitamin D deficiency is an unbalanced diet, lacking in calcium and vitamin D.
When does a baby need a Vitamin D supplement?
In most cases, breast milk or formula provides just about everything a baby needs for the first four to six months. However, the exception is vitamin D, which is why the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) now recommends that you give your breastfed baby a supplement of 400 IU per day of vitamin D, starting in the first few days of life. Babies who are fully or partially formula fed, but drink less than 900ml of formula a day also need a daily 400 IU vitamin D supplement.
How is rickets treated?
Most cases of rickets can be treated with vitamin D and calcium supplements. Always follow the doctor’s directions as too much vitamin D can be harmful. A child’s progress will be monitored with X-rays and blood tests and more severe skeletal deformities may require surgery.
Tips to boost your family’s Vitamin D levels
- Ensure you and your children spend a few minutes outside each day, winter or summer. Incidental sunlight exposure is helpful in topping up vitamin D levels.
- Some foods in South Africa are fortified with vitamin D, including margarine, maize meal, bread and breakfast cereals. Try to incorporate these into your family’s diet along with foods containing naturally occurring vitamin D such as oily fish and egg yolks.
- Take a daily supplement of vitamin D. Colief Vitamin D3 Drops are specially designed to provide the right amount of vitamin D for you or your child.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.