Preventing rickets 

There are several steps you can take to help prevent rickets.

These include ensuring your child:

Babies from birth to one year, including those who are exclusively or partially breastfed, need 8.5 to 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D a day.

Children from the age of one year and adults need 10mcg of vitamin D a day. 

Supplements

The Department of Health recommends that:

  • pregnant and breastfeeding women should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D
  • babies from birth to one year of age, whether exclusively or partially breastfed, should be given a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10mcg of vitamin D, to make sure they get enough
  • babies fed infant formula do not need a vitamin D supplement until they are receiving less than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day, because infant formula is fortified with vitamin D
  • children aged 1 to 4 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D

For more information, read about who should take vitamin D supplements.

Sunlight

Sunlight is a good source of vitamin D and it's where we get most of our vitamin D from. The vitamin forms under the skin after sun exposure.

In the UK, about 10 to 15 minutes of exposure on the hands and face when the sun is at its strongest (between 11am and 3pm) a few times a week from late March/April to the end of September is enough for most people.

You won't get vitamin D from the sun if you wear sunscreen, but you should apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 if you're outside for longer than 10 to 15 minutes. This will help protect your skin from sun damage.

Babies and young children have very sensitive skin that burns easily, so they need to use stronger sunscreen and be covered up when out in the sun.

In the UK, your skin isn't able to make vitamin D from the sun from October to early March because the sunlight isn't strong enough. However, you can get vitamin D from your body's stores and from food sources during this period.

Read more about vitamin D and sunlight and staying safe in the sun.

Healthy Start

Some families are eligible for free vitamin supplements from the government's Healthy Start scheme.

Find out if you qualify for Healthy Start. You can also call the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823 or email their helpdesk at helpdesk@tiu.org.uk.

Page last reviewed: 21/12/2015

Next review due: 21/12/2017