A recent Japanese study found that schoolchildren who take vitamin D supplements during winter and early spring have fewer bouts of the flu and fewer asthma attacks. This study indicated that vitamin D warded off influenza type A, but not influenza type B, which occurs later in the winter season. The study's researchers recommend that children take 1,200 IU of vitamin D per day starting in September to help prevent flu and asthma attacks during flu season.
Still, even though these finding are intriguing, they don't provide enough information to form public health recommendations. More research is needed before we know if and how vitamin D supplements help prevent colds, flu or asthma and whether they should be recommended for children or adults.
The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements has concluded that most people meet their vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight. However, sunscreen use and geographic latitude could play a role in some people not being able to synthesize enough vitamin D. For instance, anyone who lives above 42 degrees north latitude (a line approximately between the northern border of California and Boston) might not get enough D from November through February. But again, not enough is known to make a recommendation for or against supplementation to ward off colds and flu for people living in these areas. Talk to your doctor if you're thinking about giving your child any supplement.
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