Now linked to many acute and chronic health conditions, deficiency of vitamin D is also connected to a higher incidence of respiratory tract infections. It has been speculated that the higher prevalence of influenza in winter months corresponds to a decrease in the population’s vitamin D levels as sunlight exposure decreases. Approximately 70 percent of children have been found to be vitamin D deficient in recent surveys. It is possible that those individuals with vitamin D deficiencies are at higher risk to contract flu and develop complications from these infections. Historically, the most common sources of vitamin D are sunlight and supplemented dairy products. Sunlight may be tough to come by in the winter (and sunscreen use during the summer has limited our exposure, too), and a rising number of children cannot tolerate dairy products. One alternative is a vitamin D supplement given on a daily basis. The AAP recommends 400IU of D3 per day, but some children will need more than that to optimize vitamin D levels. Check with your health care practitioner if you want to test your child’s level.
Probiotics are bacteria and other organisms that colonize our gastrointestinal systems during, and shortly after, birth. They regulate important immune and digestive functions. One recent study demonstrated that daily probiotic supplementation was a safe and effective way to reduce fever and cold symptoms, as well as reduce the number of antibiotic prescriptions and missed school days due to illness. This is a major finding, and if a conventional OTC product could do this, I’m sure we would be reading about it in every major media publication. So how can you get probiotics into your children? Yogurt and other cultured foods can be helpful. For those who cannot eat dairy or choose not to, there are an abundant number of good quality probiotic supplements in the refrigerated section of your local health food store.