While parents may assume their kids will soak up enough vitamin D as we move into the sunnier months of the year, a local doctor says some children still need to take a vitamin D supplement to ensure healthy development.
Vitamin D helps the body regulate calcium levels so it can develop and maintain healthy bones, explains Dr. Ari Gilmore, a family doctor at Pacific Medical Centers. Children who don't get enough vitamin D can develop Rickets - a softening of bones, potentially leading to fractures or deformities.
"For kids vitamin D is really essential to building strong bones," Gilmore says.
Vitamin D also improves muscle recovery and can prevent soreness and aching. And in recent years, vitamin D has been linked to memory and other brain functions.
We get vitamin D from foods like salmon, eggs, fortified milk or chanterelle mushrooms, as well as from sun exposure.
That's why Gilmore says vitamin D is one of many reasons, including the development of vision and motor skills, it is important for kids to spend time playing outdoors.
"One to two hours of outdoor play daily for kids is something we should all strive for," he says.
Gilmore says just 30 minutes in the sun can provide a person with their daily dose of vitamin D. But, that can be difficult during Seattle's many cloudy days.
Even when it is sunny, Gilmore says kids who are wearing sunscreen will not absorb the UV rays necessary to develop the vitamin. Even SPF 15 will prevent vitamin D production.
Gilmore recommends kids take a vitamin D supplement to ensure they don't develop a vitamin deficiency. He says the source of the vitamin does not matter, as long as you get your daily recommended dose. An average portion of salmon works just as well as over-the-counter tablets.
Gilmore says children with darker complexions are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency because their skin tone also blocks the absorption of UV rays and says these kids should take a vitamin D supplement year-round. Children with lighter skin should take it between Halloween and spring break.
Even adults - especially those who work graveyard shifts and see the sun less often - should consider taking a vitamin D supplement to avoid weak bones or aching muscles, Gilmore says.