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1 University College Hospital Vitamin and mineral supplements for children Information for parents and guardians Department of Nutrition & Dietetics

2 If you would like this document in another language or format, or require the services of an interpreter, contact us on We will do our best to meet your needs. Contents 1. Introduction 3 2. Which vitamins do you need to supplement You re child s diet 4 3. How to obtain the right vitamin supplement 5 4. Frequently asked questions / notes 7 5. Contact details 8 2

3 1 Introduction Not all children will get all the vitamins they need from their diet alone. The vitamins that have been found to be particularly low in children s diets in the United Kingdom (UK) are vitamin A, C and D. All children aged from 6 months to 5 years in the UK need to take vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C, and vitamin D (Chief Medical officer s advice, 2012). There are children who are at a higher risk of vitamin deficiency that need to be given vitamin supplements from one month old: Children from Asian, African, Caribbean and Middle Eastern families Children with darker skin and limited exposure to sunlight Breast fed infants, where mothers have not taken vitamin D supplements throughout their pregnancy Infants less than 6 months old who are fed infant formula will not need vitamin supplements until they are receiving less than 500ml of infant formula a day, as the formula is fortified with vitamin A, C and vitamin D. Breast feeding mothers need to take a vitamin D supplement containing at least 10 mcg of vitamin D. This should be taken for as long as breastfeeding continues. 3

4 2 Which vitamins do you need to supplement your child s diet? Vitamin A Vitamin A helps with growth, eyesight and healthy skin. Ensure supplements provide at least 200 µg (666 units) of Vitamin A per day. In order to achieve a healthy balanced diet, also give your child vitamin A from foods such as: dairy products and fortified margarines and fat spreads liver and liver products vegetables, such as carrots, red peppers, broccoli, spinach and tomatoes fruit such as peaches, apricots and mangoes Vitamin C Vitamin C is important for general health and for the immune system. It helps wounds to heal and helps to absorb iron. Ensure a supplement provide at least 20 mg of Vitamin C per day. In order to achieve a healthy balanced diet, also give your child vitamin C from foods such as: berries and currants, strawberries and citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes green peppers, broccoli, cabbage, kale and spring greens potatoes & sweet potatoes 4

5 Vitamin D Vitamin D helps to make healthy bones and teeth. Babies and children who do not get enough vitamin D can get softening and malformation of their bones, called rickets. Due to limited sun exposure in the UK, especially if you are in a high risk group, children in the UK need to take an additional vitamin D supplement. The vitamin D supplement must provide at least seven µg (280 units) of vitamin D per day. Only a small number of foods contain vitamin D, like oily fish (pilchards, salmon, sardines, and mackerel), liver, eggs, fortified fat spreads and breakfast cereals. Most of our vitamin D comes from sunlight on our skin. 3 How to obtain the right vitamin supplement Vitamin supplements can be bought from pharmacies and stores such as Boots, Superdrug and many supermarkets. At the time of print, the only brands that provided the daily vitamin supplement requirements were: Abidec Dalivit Healthy Start Children s vitamin drops Pharmacy or supermarket own-brand versions are also suitable as long as they provide the amounts listed per daily dose. These 5

6 supplements also contain other vitamins. Please check with your pharmacist if you have any concerns. If you qualify for the healthy start scheme, you are entitled to receive these vitamins free of charge in the form of Healthy Start Children s vitamin drops. Please speak to your health visitor if you think you may be eligible. If you do not qualify for the healthy start scheme, it is recommended that you buy vitamin supplements. Before you buy your vitamin supplements, please check the label for the nutritional information and ensure the daily dose contains at least: 200 µg (666 units) of Vitamin A 7 µg (280 units) of Vitamin D 20 mg of Vitamin C Vitamin supplements come in three forms: tablets which a child would need to swallow chewable ones, like sweets syrup which can be given with a spoon or a syringe or mixed into food or liquids Please check that the multivitamins that you are buying are the correct dose for the age of your child. Should you accidentally give your child an incorrect dose, consult your pharmacist regarding any potential side effects. 6

7 4 Frequently Asked Questions Q. What do I do if my child refuses to take supplements? A. If your child refuses, do not give up. Try to offer the supplements again the next day. It may take refusals before a child will take the supplements. Even if only some of the supplement is taken this is better than none at all. It may also be worth trying a different type to see if these will be taken. Q. Where can I get further advice and information? A. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your GP or health visitor. The following website will also give more detailed information on vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin D. Reference: Department of health Publications and Statistics website [online].[accessed 29 April 2012]. Available from World Wide Web:http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Lettersand circulars/dearcolleagueletters/dh_

8 5 Contact details Specialist Paediatric Dietitian Address: Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, 3 rd Floor East, 250 Euston Road, London, NW1 2PG Direct line: Switchboard: Extension: Fax: Website: First published: April 2012 Date last review ed: April 2015 Date next review due: April 2017 Leaflet code: UCLH/MB/CS/DIETCS/VITMNS/1 University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 8

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