Sunshine, Vitamin D, Calcium, and Kids’ Fractures

As our name suggests, our practice is obviously focused on pediatric orthopedics.  Yes, fractures are common as kids play and participate in sports.  But many fractures are preventable. That’s why a big part of our job at Cactus Pediatric Orthopaedics is to promote a healthy musculoskeletal system.


We are privileged at Cactus Pediatric Orthopaedics to care for kids with great parents, many of whom are tuned into a healthy lifestyle for the whole family.  Hence, parents often ask, “Is there a supplement that I can give my kids to strengthen their bones?” Yes! And that “yes” centers on vitamin D and calcium; substances that great-grandma probably knew about.  We all know that calcium is the most important mineral for healthy bones.  Vitamin D helps mobilize Calcium from the diet into the bloodstream and ultimately into bones and other organ systems where it is needed.


You have probably heard that Vitamin D is the “Sunshine Vitamin,” meaning that sun exposure to the skin helps convert inactive forms of Vitamin D that we eat into the active form that the body uses.  As an Arizona parent you might assume that kids running around and playing sports outside here have all the Vitamin D they need.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  Some of our colleagues conducted research and found that kids in sunny climates still have a high incidence of vitamin D deficiency.  Other studies nationwide, show a 40 to 60% increase in fractures in kids over the past 4 decades.  What gives?


A couple of factors contribute to low Vitamin D levels.  The contemporary diet in many homes doesn’t expose people to some of the vitamin D heavy foods that prior generations grew up with, such as oily fish, liver, and even the amount of dairy they get.  Also, for good reason, we layer our kids with sunscreen that blocks UVB rays that convert vitamin D to an active form; that’s a good thing as our desert sun is overly rich in UVB that can burn the skin and trigger skin cancer formation!  So keep up the sunscreen and keep up a healthy level of outdoor activity. But do consider some supplemental vitamin D and calcium.  As pediatric orthopedic specialists, we recommend at least 600IU of vitamin D3 and 800mg of calcium for most of our school age kids.  For junior high and high school kids we up the vitamin D3 to 2000IU and the calcium up to 1200mg a day. Always feel free to double check this recommendation with your primary care doctors, who we always respect as the main guide for general health and nutrition.


And good luck to all your little ones on the playground and the playing field.