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Vitamin D

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How does this medicine work?

Vitamin D is a hormone needed for cells in the body to work properly. Vitamin D is important for bone health, as well as making sure that muscles, heart, lungs and brain work well and that your body can fight infection. There is evidence that patients with some cancers have improved survival with normal vitamin D levels in the blood. 

Why would my child have low levels?

Vitamin D is obtained from sun exposure or diet. In Minnesota, the sun is only strong enough in the summer to produce vitamin D. Most diets and multivitamins do not contain enough vitamin D for most people. Those with dark skin, who are over weight, who smoke or are elderly, are more likely to have a low vitamin D level. Sun exposure is a good source of vitamin D in the summer. However, too much sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer such as melanoma, which can be prevented by sunscreen. Unfortunately sunscreen reduces vitamin D production from the skin, so oral vitamin D is needed.

How is vitamin D measured?

The only way to know if vitamin D level is low is a blood test (it cannot be done by finger poke). The name of the test is 25-hydroxy-vitamin D. The normal level is 30-80 ng/mL. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about this test.

Your level was _____ on        /      /

How should I give it?

Vitamin D can only be given by mouth on a daily, weekly or monthly schedule. It is best absorbed when taken with food. If vitamin D levels are low, higher doses may be given for 1 - 2 months to get to a normal level prior to starting a maintenance dose.

Recommended Daily Doses of Vitamin D

Vitamin D comes in two forms: D3 and D2.  D3 is preferred and available without a prescription in many forms including liquid, gummies, capsules and tablets.

Infant and toddler: 400 units daily
Child: 1000 units daily
Teen and adult: 2000 units daily
Obese teen and obese adult: 5000 units daily
Pregnant woman: 4000 units daily

Are there side effects?

Vitamin D will only cause side effects with intentional overdosing for weeks. It is impossible to develop vitamin D toxicity from sun exposure.

What should I do if a dose is missed?

If one dose is missed, go back to your normal dosing schedule.

What else do I need to know?

If your child is taking vitamin D for rickets (a bone disease), your provider will also prescribe calcium supplements.


This is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, call your clinic or pharmacy. For more information about Vitamin D, see the National Institutes of Health website or the Vitamin D Council website.

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Patient/Family Education
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Reviewed by Hem/Onc 8/2015 ©Copyright

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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