03/01/2018 12:02 EST

6 Things You Need To Know About Children And Vitamins So You Can Choose The Best Ones For Your Child

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These days, it seems like there are vitamins for everything — from vitamins to boost memory, to those that will improve heart health. But how do we best determine what kinds of vitamins our children need? Should all kids be taking the same vitamins across the board? In partnership with Walgreens, we’ve gathered some important facts about vitamins to help you answer questions like these so you can be sure to pick the best ones for your child’s overall health.

1. Even though vitamins are readily available in any drugstore, you shouldn’t purchase them for your kids without consulting a doctor first

Don’t run to the pharmacy just yet. While vitamins are very important for children’s health, you shouldn’t self-prescribe. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends consulting your child’s doctor or a registered dietician/nutritionist before giving your child a supplement — and Pegah Jalali agrees. As a pediatric dietitian at Middleberg Nutrition, she recommends “seeing a specialist to [ultimately] determine what your child needs.” A doctor or nutritionist can help determine how many vitamins you can give your kids at once, too. The risks of consuming too many vitamins includes megadosing, which the American Academy of Pediatrics says can “produce toxic symptoms, ranging from nausea to rashes to headaches and sometimes to even more severe adverse effects.”

2. Factor in your children’s physical status and habits before placing them on a vitamin regimen

If you’re thinking about starting your child on a regular vitamin regimen, take his or her physical status into consideration first. According to the Mayo Clinic, most healthy children don’t require multivitamins, but a multivitamin might help your child if he has a restrictive diet, developmental growth issues, food allergies or a chronic disease. If your kids play sports, their nutritional needs might look a bit different than those who don’t. A few important minerals and vitamins for child athletes are calcium, iron and vitamin D. Iron helps with oxygen flow, vitamin D is crucial for healthy bones and helps with absorption of calcium.

3. Age and gender make a big difference in determining which vitamins kids need and how much

Depending on your child’s age, he or she will need different amounts of nutrients and vitamins for growth and development. The Mayo Clinic reported that children between the ages of 2 and 3 require fewer calories, protein, vegetables, grains and dairy than their 4- to 8-year-old counterparts. Younger kids need less vitamin C, as well. According to the National Institutes of Health, kids between 4 and 8 require 25 milligrams of vitamin C every day. But younger kids only need 15 milligrams daily. The NIH reports that kids between 1 and 3 should get about 2,000 international units of vitamin A every day; and for kids 4 to 8, 3,000 IUs. While girls and boys between the ages of 2 and 3 have the same daily nutrition guidelines, it can vary based on gender once they reach the ages 4 to 8, in which case boys may start to require more nutrients.

4. Adorable looking vitamins aren’t always the best ones

These days, many children’s vitamins look and taste just like your favorite snack. However, Jalali stresses that vitamins are not candy. In fact, she recommends steering away from gummy vitamins. Instead, she suggests using powder or oil dropper vitamins that can be added to food or drinks over chewable or gummy vitamins that can lead to cavities.  

5. Kids who drink milk alternatives and children of color are less likely to get the recommended amount of vitamin D

A 2016 study published in the journal Epidemiology found that children who consume milk alternatives, such as plant-based milk, are linked to lower vitamin D levels in early childhood, making a vitamin D supplement particularly important for them. Dr. John Worobey, professor and director of the undergraduate program in nutritional sciences at Rutgers University, revealed that another group of kids who might be at a higher risk for lower vitamin D levels are children of color due to their skin color. “The darker your skin pigmentation the less likely you are to benefit from sunlight…so minority mothers would do well…to make sure that their kid is getting enough vitamin D, and a supplement can be useful for that,” Worobey said.  

6. Some vitamins are harder for kids to digest than others

Not all vitamins for kids are created the same. According to Jalali, “Most parents think that vitamins are harmless and the more you give the better, but the fat-soluble vitamins — that’s vitamins D, E, A and K — are harder for your body to get rid of. So, if you have too much, it can cause liver toxicity; it can cause a strain on your kidneys; it can cause a lot of adverse effects.” 

Whenever you purchase vitamins at Walgreens, you help provide life-changing vitamins and minerals to millions of undernourished children around the world and here at home. Together with Vitamin Angels, Walgreens hopes to create a better and healthier world.