Children with a vitamin D deficiency are more likely to develop asthma and other allergies.
The Telethon Kids Institute studied children under 10 who were genetically at risk of the condition, and found those who spent less time in the sun were more susceptible to asthma, allergies and eczema, reports ABC news.
The study’s lead researcher, Elysia Hollams, said this was because vitamin D was important for immune function.
“Vitamin D can help to promote tolerance to allergens,” she said.
“So that means our immune system can ignore things that are harmless to it.
“When we get allergies is when our immune system has a response to something that it should just ignore.”
The first two years of childhood have been flagged as a critical period for allergies and chest infections to begin growing into something bigger, but enough vitamin D can help prevent the development of asthma.
The study considered 50 nanomoles per litre as the cut-off for low vitamin D levels, but Doctor Hollams said they were yet to come to a conclusion about how much vitamin D children should be getting.
“That’s the million dollar question, we really don’t even know what range of vitamin D is optimal for normal immune development,” she said.
Although vitamin D supplements are available, Doctor Hollams said parents needed to make sure their kids spent sufficient time in the sun.
“As vitamin D is a marker of sun exposure, we don’t know whether just giving supplements can give the full benefit of healthy sun exposure,” she said.
In a statement, the study’s co-author Prue Hart reminded parents too much sun exposure could be harmful.
“In summer, it’s still important to wear sun protection during the hottest parts of the day and when the UV index is three or above,” she said.
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