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Offered by: Richard W. Martin, M.D. – Brighton Pediatrics, P.C.

Vitamins are organic compounds needed in small amounts for essential biochemical processes. A healthy, balanced diet will usually provide all the vitamins that a child needs, but there are situations where extra vitamins are needed.

Vitamin K is essential for natural clotting factors in the blood to function. Natural sources of Vitamin K include leafy green vegetables. For a variety of reasons, newborns sometimes do not have adequate supplies of Vitamin K, which can lead to serious bleeding. The shot of Vitamin K given routinely to all newborns prevents this rare but potentially life-threatening problem.

Vitamin D is essential for strong, healthy bones. It is available from fatty fish and fortified dairy products and is also synthesized in the skin with sunlight (in particular, ultraviolet-B light). Children who do not have adequate sun exposure or dietary sources may need supplemental Vitamin D. Supplemental Vitamin D is suggested for breastfeeding babies, but, since Vitamin D drops for babies come in several different concentrations, care must be taken to give the correct dosage.

Vitamin A is essential to the health of the eye and immune system. Impaired night vision is an early sign of Vitamin A deficiency, and more severe deficiency is a leading cause of blindness in developing countries. Good dietary sources of Vitamin A include carrots, broccoli, squash, peas, spinach and cantaloupe. The amount of Vitamin A in natural sources and standard multivitamins is safe, but large amounts of extra Vitamin A can be toxic.

Citrus fruits and potatoes are good sources of Vitamin C. It remains unresolved whether extra Vitamin C helps to clear up colds faster, although extra Vitamin C in moderation does no harm. Large amounts of Vitamin C may cause upset stomach and diarrhea.

Natural sources of Vitamin B12 are milk, eggs, and meat. Children who eat a vegan diet should receive supplemental Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anemia and neurological problems.

Deficiency of the vitamin folate can also cause anemia. Supplemental folate is important from the start of pregnancy to prevent serious birth defects called neural tube defects.

For most children, a healthy, balanced diet is generally the best source of vitamins, but a standard daily multivitamin will do no harm if there is any doubt about an adequate diet.

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