There are several steps you can take to help prevent rickets.
These include ensuring your child:
- has a healthy, balanced diet (read about good dietary sources of vitamin D)
- spends some time outside in the sun
- takes a vitamin D supplement
Babies from birth to 1 year need 8.5 to 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D a day, unless they are fed 500ml or more of infant formula a day.
Children from the age of 1 year and adults need 10mcg of vitamin D a day.
It is recommended that:
- adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, and children aged over 4 years should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D from at least October to March
- babies from birth to 1 year of age, whether exclusively or partially breastfed, should be given a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10mcg of vitamin D, to make sure they get enough
- babies fed infant formula do not need a vitamin D supplement until they are receiving less than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day, because infant formula is fortified with vitamin D
- children aged 1 to 4 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D
For more information, read about who should take vitamin D supplements.
Sunlight is a good source of vitamin D and it's where we get most of our vitamin D from. The vitamin forms under the skin after sun exposure.
In the UK, a short period of exposure on the hands and face when the sun is at its strongest (between 11am and 3pm) from late March/April to the end of September is enough for most people.
You won't get vitamin D from the sun if you wear sunscreen, but you should apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 before your skin starts to turn red or burn. This will help protect your skin from sun damage.
While it's important for children to spend time in the sun to prevent rickets, babies and young children have very sensitive skin that burns easily. They need to use at least SPF 30 sunscreen and be covered up when out in the sun.
In the UK, your skin isn't able to make vitamin D from the sun from October to early March because the sunlight isn't strong enough. However, you can get vitamin D from your body's stores and from food sources during this period.
Some families are eligible for free vitamin supplements from the government's Healthy Start scheme.