When Should You Give Your Child Vitamins?by Lisa Sefcik
Colorful, tasty and pressed into the shape of cartoon characters, children's vitamins need no further marketing from Mom for your child to take her daily dose. Citing a February 2009 issue of the "Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine," Mayo Clinic nutritionists indicate that 34 percent of children in the United States take vitamins. However, most of these kids already eat a nutritionally balanced diet, so this might make you wonder if giving your child vitamins is really necessary.
Vitamins and minerals are essential for your child's health and growth, with each serving express functions, says KidsHealth. Vitamin D and calcium build strong bones, vitamin A helps eyesight, and vitamin C helps your child's body heal whenever he's injured. According to Mayo Clinic nutritionists Jennifer Nelson and Katherine Zeratsky, children who took multivitamins had access to nutritious meals and snacks. However, it also found that "nutritionally at risk" kids who didn't eat a healthy diet -- and who had little access to health care -- typically didn't take vitamins.
What Pediatricians Say
According to Mayo Clinic consultant Jay L. Hoecker, doctors disagree on the issue of giving your child vitamins. The stance of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is that if your child is healthy and eats a nutritionally balanced diet, he doesn't need a multivitamin. The AAP cautions against supplements that give your child excess amounts of nutrients. Not only does your child not need them, they could be toxic. For example, excessive doses of vitamins A, C and D can have severe side effects.
If your child is a picky eater, she may still be getting adequate nutrition, Hoecker says, because children don't need large quantities of nutrients. Nutrients may also be hidden in the fortified foods your child eats, such as milk, cereals and juices. Before giving your child multivitamins, Hoecker and the AAP suggest you talk to her pediatrician first.
When to Use Vitamins
A pediatrician may recommend that you give your child a multivitamin if he has allergies to certain foods, an eating disorder or a chronic disease or other health problem. Children who are vegans or vegetarians may need supplemental vitamins to make up for nutrients they don't get from eating meat and/or dairy. Children who don't get enough vitamin D through diet or exposure to sunlight may benefit from multivitamins. Vitamins may also be appropriate for children who don't -- or can't -- eat regular, nutritionally balanced meals. Nelson and Zeratsky point to families who, despite receiving public assistance, still cannot afford to put nutritious meals on the table.
The Right Choice
If your child takes a multivitamin, make sure that it contains 100 percent of the daily value (DV) for all essential nutrients and no more than that. Avoid giving your child vitamins in megadoses. Make sure the vitamin is formulated for your child's age. Keep them stowed in an area where young hands cannot reach them. Most importantly, don't rely on multivitamins as a main nutrient source for your child's diet. Provide her with well-balanced meals and snacks.
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