Research-backed

How Much Vitamin C Should A Child Take? Dosage And Sources

Image: iStock

IN THIS ARTICLE

Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is an essential nutrient for a child’s healthy growth and development. This nutrient, found in most fruits and vegetables, is the most easily available vitamin. However, despite its abundant availability, children can develop vitamin C deficiency.

Read this post to learn about the sources, recommended intake, and deficiency of vitamin C for kids.

Why Do Children Need Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is essential for several body functions that are vital for a child’s growth and development. The following are the benefits of vitamin C for kids (1) (2):

  • Helps in collagen production, which is crucial for the wound healing process
  • Reduces the damage of free radicals on the body due to its high antioxidant properties
  • Aids in protein metabolism
  • Helps maintain good immune health by stimulating the white blood cells
  • Assists in the absorption of nonheme iron (plant-derived)
  • Repairs and maintains healthy bones

Vitamin C is not synthesized endogenously (internally). Furthermore, it is a water-soluble vitamin, which means the body does not store it. Hence, adequate daily intake is essential.

At What Age Can A Child Take Vitamin C?

Breast milk is a good source of vitamin C. Thus, infants start consuming this essential vitamin from their first meal. The oral consumption of vitamin C begins the day the infant is weaned since it is a natural component of many fresh fruits and vegetables. During this period, the infant receives vitamin C from a combination of breast milk or formula and food ( 3).

Children above six months with vitamin C deficiency can take dietary supplements. However, it is unsafe to administer supplements unless suggested bya medical professional (4) (5).

What Is The Daily Recommended Allowance Of Vitamin C For Children?

The requirement of vitamin C in children varies based on the age group. Here is the requirement as per the National Institutes of Health (2):

AgeRDA – Recommended Dietary Allowance
1–3 years15mg
4–8 years25mg
9–13 years45mg

Source: Vitamin C: Fact Sheet for Consumers; National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements.

Can A Child Get Too Much Vitamin C?

A child can’t get too much vitamin C from dietary sources. In addition, since vitamin C is not stored in the body, any excess amount is flushed out with the urine. In rare cases, a mega dosage of vitamin Coccurswith dietary supplement intake. The daily upper limit of vitamin C for children is as follows (2):

AgeUpper Limit of Vitamin C
1–3 years400mg
4–8 years650mg
9–13 years1200mg

Source: Vitamin C: Fact Sheet for Consumers; National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements.

What Are The Side Effects Of Excess Vitamin C?

An excessive intake of vitamin C causes gastrointestinal disturbances, including (6 ).

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Flatulence

A high dose of vitamin C could also cause iron overload in individuals with hemochromatosis, a hereditary condition causing excess iron absorption ( vitamin C helps in iron absorption). An iron overload could lead to toxicity, which may damage the body tissues (1).

What Are The Sources Of Vitamin C For Children?

Vitamin C is present in most fruits and vegetables. The following are its food sources (2) (6 ) (7):

  • Blackcurrants
  • Red pepper
  • Potatoes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Grapefruit
  • Green peas
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Peppers
  • Green pepper
  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits (oranges, lime, lemon, and their juices)
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach and other leafy vegetables

Most cereals, food products, and beverages are fortified with vitamin C to compensate for its loss during processing.

Vitamin C is volatile. Preparatory methods such as cutting or heating decrease its effectiveness. Hence, consume the above foods immediately after preparation (8).

How To Know If A Child Has Vitamin C Deficiency?

Vitamin C deficiency is rare since a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is sufficient to meet its requirement. However, children who are picky eaters may develop mild deficiency. The symptoms of vitamin C deficiency in children may include (7).

  • Nose bleeds
  • Anemia
  • Dry hair
  • Gingivitis (gum inflammation and bleeding)
  • Dry skin
  • Enamel erosion
  • Low infection-fighting ability
  • Poor wound healing

Severe vitamin C deficiency for more than three months could cause a condition called scurvy. The symptoms of scurvy include (8) (9).

  • Easy bruising
  • Legs and arm pain
  • Bumps near hair follicles
  • Fatigue

How Is Vitamin C Deficiency Diagnosed?

A medical professional may establish a vitamin C deficiency by studying your child’s food patterns and symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis, they may recommend a blood test to observe the blood ascorbic acid levels. A blood ascorbic level of <0.2mg/dl indicates severe vitamin C deficiency (10).

If you notice any signs of vitamin C deficiency, visit your doctor before taking supplements. As discussed, a balanced diet is sufficient to ensure your child meets the vitamin C requirement. Also, a balanced diet reduces the risks of other vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Hence, ensure your child eats fruits and vegetables at least five times a day.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
The following two tabs change content below.

Sindusha MS

Sindusha is a clinical nutritionist with over two years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She did her Masters in Food Science and Nutrition and has qualified UGC-NET. She interned as a quality control analyst and as a dietitian during her graduation. She was a part of several community nutrition projects and a phytochemical-based nutrition study during the same... more