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    Multivitamins for Kids: Do They Need to Take Them?

    Mar 14, 2024 8 Minute Read

    Should kids take vitamins? Multivitamins for kids are often not necessary — but it all depends on your child's health.


    Multivitamins for kids may seem like a logical choice for parents focused on their child's growth and development — and many choose to give multivitamins as a precaution. But should kids take vitamins? It may come as a surprise to you, but in most cases, kids don't require them.


    "Even picky eaters get all of the nutrients they need from food," explains Rachel Dawkins, M.D., director of the Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine Clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital. "Typically, kids don't need vitamins, but every kid is different and has different needs, so consult your pediatrician if you are worried."


    Common Nutrient Needs


    Diet is the best way for kids to meet their nutritional needs, but there are certain exceptions. For instance, it may be challenging to get calcium and vitamin D, iron and omega-3 fatty acids into your child's regular diet.


    Vitamin D plays an important role in fighting infections and positively affecting heart health. And together, calcium and vitamin D help build strong bones, notes Nemours Children's Health. That said, there aren't a lot of foods that contain vitamin D naturally. The ones with the most are fatty fish like tuna and salmon, liver and eggs, which all tend to be hard sells for most kids' taste buds. Food companies often add vitamin D to products like milk, yogurt, baby formula, juice and cereal to fortify them — but even then, it's not always enough.


    Iron helps tissues and organs get the oxygen they need, says Nemours. But it's mainly found in meat and dark green leafy vegetables, which may not be your child's favorite. Omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of brain function, heart health and immunity, and they are found in oils, nuts, seeds and certain types of fish.


    You can buy vitamin D, iron and omega-3 as gummies, chewables and liquids in stores without a prescription. Ask your child's pediatrician for advice on choosing the right one for your child.


    When Multivitamins Are Necessary


    While most kids don't require a daily multivitamin to stay healthy, there are, of course, certain exceptions. Kids with medical conditions that affect absorption may require supplementation, notes Jillian Foglesong Stabile, M.D. on WellRx. One example is cystic fibrosis, which affects the body's ability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Celiac disease, cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are other conditions that affect absorption.


    Likewise, children with dietary restrictions due to food allergies could need vitamin supplementation, particularly if their allergies severely limit food choices and varieties. Lastly, children with vegetarian and vegan diets may require a supplement to ensure they're getting what they need.


    "The challenge with vegetarian and vegan diets is that they require careful planning and evaluation in order to determine what supplementation is needed," Dr. Foglesong Stabile says. "Poorly planned vegan diets can lead to deficiencies in calcium, vitamin D, iron and omega-3 fatty acids."


    Whether you supplement with a multivitamin or not, teaching kids to "eat the rainbow" from a young age is always a good idea. Choosing a variety of different-colored whole foods — red, orange/yellow, green, blue/purple and white — will ensure plenty of antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals to promote growth and overall health. Make a game of finding as many colors as you can on your dinner plates, suggests the Whole Kids Foundation. Some kid-friendly, colorful choices are apples, strawberries and watermelon (red); carrots, mango and pineapple (orange/yellow); broccoli, green peppers and peas (green); beans, blueberries and blackberries (blue/purple); and ginger, onion and mushrooms (white).


    Age-Appropriate Formulas and Doses


    If your child's pediatrician suggests a multivitamin, be sure to choose a formula that caters to their specific nutritional needs and age. While many options are for children ages 4 and above, there are choices for toddlers, as well. When selecting a multivitamin, be sure to choose high-quality brands that contain appropriate doses for kids, taking into consideration their age and weight, and stick to the recommended dosage, suggests Healthline. What's more, the Mayo Clinic explains that a multivitamin shouldn't give more than 100% of the daily value of vitamins and minerals.


    Lastly, proper dosing is important to prevent an overdose. "The symptoms of a vitamin overdose depend on the vitamin and the amount taken. Some vitamin overdoses start off with mild symptoms like stomach upset and vomiting, and then progress into more serious symptoms," advises GoodRx Health.


    If you suspect your child ate too many multivitamins, call your pediatrician or Poison Control immediately. Be especially vigilant with iron, which can be fatal in large doses. Keep multivitamins out of your child's reach and remind them that even if something looks and tastes good, it can't be eaten like candy.




    The Final Verdict on Multivitamins for Kids


    Ensuring kids receive the proper nutrition is a top priority for parents. Your child's pediatrician is the best ally to determine what's best for their specific needs. While a well-balanced diet and "eating the rainbow" is the foundation of children's nutrition, multivitamins for kids can be considered a helpful supplement in certain circumstances. Whatever the final verdict, continue to champion nutritious dietary habits for your kids — because healthy kids make happy parents!


    These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regimen.

    These articles are intended for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in these articles. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise or medication regimen.