As the coronavirus lockdown continues and we spend less time outdoors, Public Health England is recommending some people consider taking daily vitamin D supplements throughout the spring and summer.
Our skin makes vitamin D when it is exposed to the sun, so we usually get enough vitamin D by spending time outdoors. Vitamin D is important for healthy bones, teeth and muscles and if we don’t get enough, it can lead to bone deformity illnesses such as rickets in children. It also helps to fight off illnesses and infections.
Dr Imogen Staveley, Chair at NHS Warwickshire North Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Supplements will improve the health of people who are deficient in vitamin D. There is no evidence that they can reduce the risk of catching or getting ill with coronavirus, but experts do think that it may have benefits during the pandemic.”
Recognising that following government guidelines for the coronavirus pandemic mean many of us will have less exposure to sunlight, Public Health England is recommending taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if:
- you are not often outdoors – for example if you are housebound because you are shielding or if you do not have a garden
- you live in a care home
- you usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors.
People with dark skin may also not be getting enough vitamin D, even if they do spend time outdoors.
The Department of Health and Social Care recommends that:
- breastfed babies from birth to 1 year of age should be given a supplement of 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day
- formula-fed babies should not be given a vitamin D supplement until they’re having less than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day – because infant formula is fortified with vitamin D
- children aged 1-4 should be given a supplement of 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day
- adults at risk of vitamin D deficiency (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should take a supplement of 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day.
Vitamin D supplements are widely available from supermarkets and pharmacies. However, please do not buy more than you need. Vitamin drops are available for babies – ask your health visitor for information – and are free to low-income families through the Healthy Start scheme.
Dr Staveley added: “The supplements are safe but taking more than the recommended amount every day can be dangerous. You should only take higher doses if recommended by your doctor. Also, some people with certain medical conditions – such as kidney problems – cannot safely take vitamin D. If you are in any doubt, you should consult your doctor.”
It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, but oily fish and eggs are good sources of vitamin D. Some breakfast cereals, margarine and yoghurts are also fortified with vitamin D.
Going outside for your one form of daily exercise during daylight hours is a good way of getting your vitamin D. Do remember to take care to protect your skin from sunburn and skin damage by covering up and/or applying sunscreen.
For more information, visit the NHS website: