Children and Vitamin C Deficiences

children vitamin c deficiences

Scurvy (a vitamin C deficiency) was once the scourge of the high seas, leaving sailors with jaundice, bleeding gums, and even death. Thankfully, scurvy has been nearly eradicated in developed countries that have an ample supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as vitamin C supplements. But with the modern diet of fast, processed and fried foods, scurvy is still a problem for children who do not eat fresh foods every day.

Signs of Scurvy in Children

  • Pale skin
  • Sunken eyes
  • Swollen gums
  • Lack of strength
  • Muscle pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Susceptible to easy bruising
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Achey and swollen joints
  • Abnormally tired
  • Trouble breathing
  • Increased heart rate

Scurvy may be initially diagnosed as general malnutrition, as the symptoms are nearly identical. To more accurately diagnose scurvy in infants and children, doctors will perform x-rays and measure the level of vitamin C in the child’s blood.

Treating Scurvy

Fortunately, the treatment for scurvy is very simple: daily doses of vitamin C. If a child is diagnosed with a vitamin C deficiency, they will likely be given intravenous infusions or oral doses of vitamin C supplements to quickly increase vitamin C levels in the blood. Once the symptoms of scurvy have subsided, daily intake of fresh fruits and vegetables is sufficient to prevent classic scurvy.

Preventing Vitamin C Deficiencies in Children

Since the body cannot make vitamin C, and it is water-soluble (meaning the vitamin C cannot be stored by the body for later use), it must be obtained through the daily diet or supplements.

To give your child the ultimate head start in health, it may even be beneficial to take daily doses of vitamin C throughout pregnancy. Dr. Frederick Klenner observed more than 300 obstetrical cases where vitamin C was given orally, and in the Journal of Applied Nutrition he noted that “failure to use this agent in sufficient amounts in pregnancy borders on malpractice.” This is because the mothers taking 4+ grams of vitamin C every day experienced lower instances of leg cramps, shorter and less painful labors, no postpartum hemorrhages, and no cardiac stress among patients with rheumatic hearts. The babies – referred to as “Vitamin C Babies” by Dr. Klenner and the nursing staff – were all born healthy and robust, without any of them requiring resuscitation or encountering problems with feeding.

After birth, babies can get vitamin C from fortified infant formula, but preferably from breast milk (as long as the mother is getting enough vitamin C in her diet). Once the child is old enough to eat fruits and vegetables, multiple servings should be eaten each day. There are also a number of vitamin C supplements available in liquid forms that are easy for children to take.

If you suspect your child has a vitamin C deficiency, it is best to consult a physician right away.

References
  1. NYU Langone Medical Center Department of Pediatrics. http://pediatrics.med.nyu.edu/conditions-we-treat/conditions/scurvy. Accessed on 8/19/14.
  2. Klenner, F. Observations On the Dose and Administration of Ascorbic Acid When Employed BEyon the Range of a Vitamin in Human Pathology. Journal of Applied Nutrition. Vol 23, No’s 3&4, Winter 1971.

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