Your child’s bones are growing very fast, and to support this fast growth and development, the body needs enough nutrition - in case of bones, it includes Vitamin D and minerals like Calcium. The right amount of these nutrients ensures that the child’s teeth and bones are strong and healthy, and keeps an adult’s bones and teeth healthy too.
But when your child does not get enough Vitamin D, it can result in a deficiency disease called ‘rickets.’ Rickets is a childhood bone disease that occurs in infants, children and teenagers, especially those who are growing very quickly.
Causes of Rickets
Usually, a Vitamin D deficiency as well as low calcium or phosphate intake is the reason behind rickets in kids. Vitamin D plays an important role in the body absorbing calcium and phosphorus. When there is a lack of Vitamin D, the bone’s calcium and phosphorus levels become too low, causing soft bones and rickets.
Signs You Should Look Out For
Rickets can either develop during infancy, or during childhood, depending on when the deficiency occurs. Spotting the signs and symptoms on time can help you get your child the required treatment before it does much damage.
- Abnormally shaped legs due to the bending of bones called bow legs (legs curve outward) or knock-knees (legs curve inward and knees touch).
- Swelling around the elbows, knees and other joints of the body.
- Late tooth appearances and problems with tooth enamel.
- Tooth erosion or decay.
- The soft part of the baby’s head (fontanelles) may stay soft for longer than expected and the skull bones might also be soft.
- Unexpected bone fractures after minor falls and injuries.Late crawling and walking due to low strength of bones.
Infants and children with rickets are also quite grumpy and irritable because their bones are sore, and some babies may also have muscle cramps or seizures due to low calcium levels.
You should take your child to the doctor as soon as you spot these signs so that your child’s needs and a treatment option can be determined.
- Usually, supplements of Vitamin D and calcium are given - they may be daily or monthly supplements, depending on the doctor’s recommendations.
- Avoid giving supplements without your doctor’s recommendations because an excess of Vitamin D is also bad for your child.
- In very mild cases, simply introducing foods rich in Vitamin D and Calcium might be recommended.
If left untreated, rickets can create spinal curvature and deformities, and they might need surgery.
Your growing child requires enough calcium and Vitamin D for healthy growth, so that you can prevent rickets and promote strong bones and healthy teeth. Here are some ways to ensure that your child’s Vitamin D and Calcium levels stay within the safe range:
- Allow them some time outdoors - Sunlight is the best source of Vitamin D for kids, and to allow your child to reap the benefits, allow them to play outdoors everyday for about 15 minutes a day. Keep them hydrated and use sunscreen to avoid sunburn or skin damage.
- Ensure that there are Vitamin D rich foods in their diet - like eggs or low mercury fatty fish like salmon - for children above the age of 9 months to 1 year. You should ideally wait until your child is 1 year old to introduce fish, whereas eggs can be introduced when the child is 9 months old.
- Calcium rich foods like milk and dairy products like yogurt and cheese can also be given to kids above the age of 1 year.
- Ensure that you’re eating Vitamin D and calcium rich foods like milk, dairy, eggs when pregnant so that your baby is not born with nutrient deficiency or weak bones.
Your child may not necessarily be born with rickets, but he can develop a deficiency at any time in his childhood due to the increasing demands of a growing body. So take the necessary measures as prevention is always better than cure.
Rickets is a rare disease, and usually, cases detected early can be resolved with the right care. Your child’s growing bones need the right care, so if you notice any of the signs at any stage be it infancy or childhood or early teens, make sure to consult a doctor who can decide what your child’s body needs.