PARENTS should protect their children and teens from bone problems by ensuring they receive a daily dose of vitamin D from the sun, an Ipswich pediatrician says.
The warning comes as greater sun safety awareness, increasingly indoor-focused lifestyles and a growing African population have resulted in more Ipswich children suffering vitamin D deficiencies.
The pediatrician, who asked not to be named to protect his clients, said children most at risk of developing a deficiency did not go outside enough, or had darker skin and thus required increased exposure.
"The issue we're having is two-fold; first, it's with refugees from Sudan and other parts of Africa who are breastfeeding children and don't have enough vitamin D themselves," he said.
"There was a particularly severe case at the hospital of a small child who had rickets.
"The other group are children and teens who never leave their bedrooms. They play video games and don't go outside, and are usually very pale."
A deficiency could cause the "demineralisation of bones, osteoporosis and can have an effect on mental health".
He said children could avoid developing a deficiency by playing outside for a short time. "If they don't have a deficiency, they can prevent one by receiving about 20 minutes of sunlight on the face and arms daily," he said.
Laura Vassett, mother of six-year-old Molly Smith (pictured), said her kids loved playing in the sun. "Molly loves to go outside and play in the backyard or the park," she said. "She and her brothers might play a few iPhone games but nothing beats the outdoors for them."
DAILY DOSE OF 'D'
- Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the best source of Vitamin D, according to Cancer Council Australia.
- The risk of skin cancer from sun exposure needs to be balanced with the importance of maintaining vitamin D levels.
- Most people can maintain adequate vitamin D levels with six to 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight on their face and arms outside of the peak UV period from 10am to 3pm.
- At-risk groups include people with darker skin who may need more exposure, people who cover their skin and breastfed babies with vitamin D deficient mothers.