Vitamin A deficiency in children

By Dr. Anukriti Singh|3 - 4 mins read| May 21, 2024

What is Vitamin A deficiency?

Vitamin A deficiency occurs when there is an insufficient intake or absorption of Vitamin A, leading to depleted stores in the body. It is a significant public health concern, particularly in developing countries, and can have severe consequences for child health and development. This deficiency can result in a range of health problems, particularly affecting vision, immune function, growth and development.

What causes Vitamin A deficiency in children?

There are several factors that can contribute to a Vitamin A deficiency. Besides inadequate diet, other factors may also lead to a deficiency. The factors are as follows:

  • The child has an inadequate dietary intake of Vitamin A-rich foods, particularly in underdeveloped or developing regions where access to nutritious foods is limited.
  • The child has poor absorption of Vitamin A due to gastrointestinal disorders or malabsorption syndromes.
  • There may be an increased demand for Vitamin A during periods of rapid growth and development, such as infancy and childhood which is not met by diet.
  • A chronic illness or infection may increase the body’s need for Vitamin A or interfere with its absorption and utilization.

What signs and symptoms may be observed in Vitamin A deficiency in children?

The symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency can vary depending on their severity. Some general symptoms are common. Specific symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency concern the eyes. The symptoms of deficiency may include:

  • Child may develop night blindness or difficulty seeing in low light conditions.
  • The child may have dry eyes.
  • The child has dry, rough, or scaly skin
  • There is an increased susceptibility to infections, particularly respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.
  • The child may have delayed growth and development.
  • There is impaired wound healing.
  • Severe corneal damage or blindness in severe cases

How is Vitamin A deficiency managed?

Managing Vitamin A deficiency involves supplementation of Vitamin A. It can include supplements or fortified foods. Additionally, improving dietary diversity and access to Vitamin A-rich foods can help prevent and address deficiency in the long term.

In some regions, public health interventions such as Vitamin A supplementation programs are also implemented by various government and health organisations to reach vulnerable populations including young children. A megadose of Vitamin A is given if your child has a deficiency. The exact dose depends on the age of your child and how severe the deficiency is.

What should I know as a parent?

As a parent, there are several ways you can help prevent and address Vitamin A deficiency in your child. Some simple steps which you may follow and common practices to keep in mind are:

  • Ensure that your child receives a well balanced diet which is rich in Vitamin A-containing foods such as liver, eggs, dairy products, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables and leafy green vegetables.
  • You should breastfeed your infant exclusively for the first six months of life, as breast milk provides a good source of Vitamin A.
  • You can participate in Vitamin A supplementation programs or initiatives offered by healthcare providers or public health authorities.
  • You should seek medical advice if you suspect your child may be experiencing symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency. Early detection and intervention can prevent complications and improve outcome in Vitamin A deficiency.
  • Advocate for policies and programs that improve access to nutritious foods and healthcare services for vulnerable populations, including children and pregnant women, to address underlying factors contributing to deficiency.
  • It is important to realise that Vitamin A deficiency is a serious health issue with potentially devastating consequences, particularly for children. You should understand its symptoms, causes, and treatment options and take proactive steps as parents.
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About The Author:

Dr. Anukriti Singh

Last Updated: Tue May 21 2024

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