Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sickly Children with Pale Faces: Vitamin C, Niacin, and Multivitamins Can Help

Working together vitamin D, vitamin C, niacin, and multivitamin can accelerate the return of good health to a sickly infant or toddler. Vitamin D is best obtained from sunshine. Vitamin C, niacin, and multivitamins are best obtained as supplements. The word accelerate is used to acknowledge that most sickly children will regain ordinary health by following standard pediatric care. The vitamin supplements and plentiful sunshine complement the treatments provided by pediatricians. The best results are obtained by using sunshine and supplements in addition to any medications/treatments advised by a child’s pediatrician.

I recommend three supplements that are inexpensive and easy to find. These are 500 mg chewable vitamin C tablets, children’s chewable multivitamins, and 250 mg time-release niacin gel caps or tablets. If you have a toddler with a pale face and dark circles under the eyes, feed him or her 6 of the vitamin C tablets, one multivitamin, and 1/2 of one 250 mg time-release niacin gel cap or tablet. Follow up with 4 more vitamin C tablets before bedtime. Many toddlers are happy to take one kid’s chewable multivitamin and lots of chewable vitamin C. These taste good. The half niacin gel cap or tablet is the only toddler-unfriendly ingredient. Fortunately, niacin has a mild flavor. Add half the contents of the gel cap (or a half tablet crushed into chunks) to ice cream or pudding, or some other soft, toddler-friendly food. The niacin may cause the toddler to flush – a temporary reddening of the skin. Although the flushing can be unpleasant, it is harmless. Further, flushing is unusual with time-release niacin gel caps at such a low dosage. Keep going with 125 mg/day of time release niacin and the vitamin C, 4 chewable tablets every morning and every bedtime until the dark circles are gone and are replaced by rosy cheeks. 4 chewable vitamin C tablets and a multivitamin should be taken every day, even when healthy. I recommend 1/2 of one 250 mg time-release niacin supplement once or twice per week for healthy kids.

I also recommend plentiful sunshine. The idea is to expose as much skin as possible for well less than the amount of time it takes to burn. Sunburns are really unpleasant. The kids will figure it out for themselves. Your job as a parent is to teach them to lie down and expose skin to the sun that usually hidden by clothing. When they go to the beach, teach them to wear a hat and shirt to protect from burns. Managing sun exposure is part of taking care of yourself, just like eating well. It's not simple, but it is natural. I don't recommend vitamin D supplements (beyond what's in milk and the multivitamins) for small children because of side effects that are difficult to manage, and slow to recede.

Several lines of reasoning supporting my recommendations follow. Vitamins are necessary catalysts used to complete the challenging task of transforming an egg and sperm into a healthy adult. Read more here and here. Vitamins help children develop immunity towards infectious diseases. This is especially important during the early daycare years when a typical child gets 8 to 10 colds per year. Read more here, here, here, and here. Environmental toxins (heavy metals are of particular concern) are steadily accumulating in the environment making the utopian goal of error-free growth and development even more challenging. Read more here, here, here, here, and here. The ordinary rough and tumble of a healthy childhood typically causes uncountable minor injuries (wounds) such as bruises, scrapes, inflammation from viral or bacterial infections, and burns (including sun burns and chemical burns such a poison ivy). Read more here, here, and here. Finally, vitamin deficiency diseases have not been completely eliminated. Self-starvation in adolescence remains tragically common and is most often referred to as anorexia and bulimia (eating disorders). Read more here and here.

The primary concern of parents and regulators is safety. Parents can confidently provide their children with up to 4,000 mg/day of vitamin C every day and up to 10,000 mg/day when they are fighting colds. The only risk is short-term discomfort. If 500 or 1000 mg turns out to be the optimal dose for their specific child, no parent will care as long as 4000 mg/day is safe and remains free of discomforts. In other words, if a parent is supplementing his/her children with 4000 mg/day and the children are healthy and happy, that parent is unlikely to explore lower doses in order to find an optimum.

All parents, not just those of sickly children with pale faces, should consider vitamin C, time-release niacin, and multivitamin supplements for their children. The children have everything to gain and almost nothing to lose by giving this approach a try.