- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Asthma in Children May Be Due to a Vitamin D Deficiency
Your child's asthma attack may be caused by a vitamin D deficiency! If your child is constantly coughing, wheezing, and in need of the albuterol inhaler or nebulizer machine, your child suffers from chronic asthma. New research shows that children with asthma who have low levels of vitamin D are more likely to suffer from difficulty breathing, bronchospasms, higher allergy levels, and need more medicine. Vitamin D is known to improve our immune system and may improve both allergies and our asthma. New studies suggest that increasing the levels of vitamin D may help children who suffer from an asthma attack. Asthmatic children with normal levels of vitamin D have less inflammation in their lungs, respond better to their corticosteriod medication and inhalers, and are less likely to suffer from bronchospasms. It also protects children against the cold and flu virus (Influenza A), which is particularly helpful since children with asthma are at high-risk when they become ill with the flu. Some research even suggests that the vitamin may lower the levels of allergies, which is a very promising sign for parents of children with food allergies or environmental allergies as well. Allergies are a known risk factor for asthma.
Asthma and Vitamin D
Blood Test Can Detect Deficiency
Your doctor can do a simple blood test to measure your child's vitamin D level. Levels below 30ng/ml are considered to be low.
Childhood Asthma is an Epidemic
The incidence of childhood asthma has reached epidemic proportions, particularly in climates that are far from the Equator. In the United States alone, approximately one-third of children suffer from asthma attacks. While not all of these children have a vitamin D deficiency, many of them do suffer from this condition.
Patients are frequently treated with inhaled cortiocosteroids, which release an inhaled steroid into their lungs, but do not release the steroid into the blood stream. This medication calms their airways, and it helps to prevent bronchospasms. Many children who suffer from an asthma attack have a condition called "airway hyperreactivity" where their airway is "twitchy" and even a small trigger can set off a major asthma attack. In many cases, the triggers can be as simple an allergy or exercise.
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Vitamin D Helps Asthma
Several studies, including a study done by the National Jewish Heath Center and another by Harvard Medical School, show that patients who had acceptable levels of vitamin D were more likely to have a positive response to their medication. Their allergies and airway hyperreactivity were also less severe. On the other hand, children with a vitamin D deficiency had the opposite response. In fact, in an article in the Journal of Allergy in Clinical Immunology, Dr. Daniel Searing says that the vitamin D deficient patients "had poorer lung function."
Over the past 50 years, numerous studies have focused on the relationship between vitamin D and asthma. Some research suggests that pregnant women who receive proper levels of vitamin D have children who are less likely to suffer from asthma. Other studies show that children who suffer from repeated asthma attacks can reduce the rate of the attacks by taking vitamin supplements in addition to their prescribed medication. In addition, vitamin D has been shown to reduce the risk of catching a cold virus or the flu (Influenza A). Interestingly, new research shows a link between the vitamin and the reduction of allergies. This may be a (small) glimmer of hope for people who suffer from food and environmental allergies. While these studies are still in their infancy; they show promising signs of the link between asthma, allergies, and vitamin D.
Vitamin D and Medication
The Recommended Daily allowance of Vitamin D is 200/IU for children over the age of one. However, your doctor may prescribe a different dosage, as research has not yet determined the appropriate dose for children who suffer from asthma. Many sites seem to suggest much higher amounts. However, you can overdose on the vitamin, so err on the side of caution.
When purchasing Vitamin D, note that there are two types of the vitamin that you can purchase, D2 which is also called ergocalciferol and D3 which is also called cholecalciferol. Most multi-vitamins contain D2. However, I suggest purchasing D3, which your body finds easier to absorb.
NEVER replace your current medication with a vitamin. Vitamin D is intended to enhance the current medication that is prescribed by your doctor, not replace it. Always follow your doctors' instructions for all medical care, particularly when it pertains to your child and asthma.
Food Allergies, Asthma, and Vitamin D
Even if your child suffers from food allergies, there are many safe nutritional ways to eat their daily allowance of vitamin D. In addition to supplements, your child could eat foods such as fish (herring, trout, and salmon are good choices), eggs, and dairy products. Orange juice, milk, and some cereals are often fortified with vitamin D as well. If your child is allergic to these foods, you can simply supplment their diet with vitamins.
Sunshine is also a natural way for your child to receive their daily allowance of vitamin D. The rays of the sun are absorbed by your child's skin, and it readily turns into vitamin D. Keep in mind that sunscreen does make it more difficult to absorb the vitamin, so you may want to let your child play outside without sunscreen for about 15 minutes. Then apply the sunscreen!
In the winter, children are outside less often. If your child is prone to asthma attacks, then they may be inside frequently during the winter. During these times, you may want to ensure that you supplement their diet with a vitamin. Without natural sunshine, your child may have low levels of vitamin D, which may be able to help fend off the asthma attacks.
Asthma and Vitamin D
Vitamin D holds promise for the millions of children who suffer from asthma and allergies. A simple vitamin D deficiency may be the problem behind the asthma epidemic. By ensuring that our children receive the appropriate amounts of vitamin D, we may be able to protect them from asthma attacks.