A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Does my child need a daily multivitamin?

Illustration - vitamins falling from bottle into kid's handIf you give your child a multivitamin, you may be surprised to learn that this daily dose of nutrients isn’t as helpful as you expected.

“A daily multivitamin isn’t necessary for most healthy kids,” Marshfield Clinic pediatrician Dr. Jeremy Forster said. “Kids can get all the nutrients they need from a balanced diet.”

Even kids who are picky eaters may be getting more vitamins and minerals than you think because many foods are fortified with nutrients.

Vitamins recommended for dietary restrictions, health conditions

Kids may need multivitamins if they aren’t getting enough nutrients from food because of dietary restrictions or health conditions. Pediatricians also recommend supplements for some infants.

A vitamin D supplement is recommended for exclusively breastfed babies, Forster said. Breastfeeding still is advised for newborns, but vitamin D doesn’t pass through breast milk well, even if the mother takes supplements.

Most older kids don’t need daily vitamins, but some exceptions exist.

Kids who eat vegan or vegetarian diets may not be getting enough iron and B12. Those who have food allergies also are more likely to need vitamin supplements.

Some health conditions, like inflammatory bowel syndrome and cystic fibrosis, make it difficult for the body to absorb vitamins. Your child’s doctor can recommend the best vitamins for specific health conditions.

Are multivitamins safe?

“Multivitamins usually don’t cause a problem,” Forster said. “With most vitamins, if you end up taking too much, your body can get rid of them without a lot of trouble.”

Taking more than the tolerable upper intake of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K can cause health problems, including nausea and vomiting, increased risk of hemorrhaging and blood clotting problems.

Keep vitamins out of children’s reach, and make it clear they aren’t candy.

Seek medical help if you suspect your child has taken a large amount of vitamins at once.

What to look for in a multivitamin

If your child needs a multivitamin, the one you choose should supply the nutrients he or she is lacking.

Vitamin D and iron deficiencies are the most common nutrient deficiencies seen in kids, so vitamins with adequate levels of those nutrients usually are good options.

Look for vitamins that have 100 percent of the recommended daily value for each ingredient.

Don’t choose vitamins that have extremely high doses of any nutrient, which increase the risk of toxicity, Forster said.

Your doctor or pharmacist can help you find the best vitamin for your child’s needs.

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