Both asthma and vitamin D deficiency are widespread problems in the United States. In fact, about 10% of children have asthma and 50% of children are deficient in vitamin D. This vitamin has anti-inflammatory properties. It is also critical for bone health and preventing associated diseases like rickets and osteomalacia. So what does it have to do with asthma and what does that mean for kids? Here’s what parents need to know about the relationship between the two:
What Parents Need To Know About Asthma and Vitamin D
1. There’s a relationship between low Vitamin D levels and asthma
Children with asthma have been shown to have lower levels of Vitamin D. While there’s a clear relationship between the two, we don’t know the reason for the association. Several studies have examined whether replacing Vitamin D may improve asthma and some have shown benefit while others have not. Overall, the studies suggest that raising vitamin D levels to the normal range improves asthma symptoms.
2. Children with vitamin D deficiency are more susceptible to the effects of traffic-related air pollution (TRAP)
Traffic exposure has a negative effect on everyone. However, studies have shown that exposure to traffic-related air pollution causes increased asthma symptoms and exacerbations in individuals with asthma and promotes asthma development early in life. This is especially evident in children who are vitamin D deficient. Children who are vitamin D deficient and live near major roadways are five times more likely to experience asthma exacerbations as compared to children living in the same areas and not deficient in vitamin D. This is a major public health problem. Forty-five percent of the population lives in areas affected by air pollution. Further, more than 30% of schools are located in high TRAP areas.
3. Vitamin D supplementation may help as a prevention method
We recently published a paper demonstrating that vitamin D supplementation may be useful in preventing asthma symptoms amongst individuals who are vitamin D deficient and have high exposure to TRAP. Previous studies have targeted vitamin D supplementation to vitamin D deficient children with asthma. But our data suggests that asthmatics who are vitamin D deficient and have high TRAP exposure would benefit the most.
4. Have a discussion with your child’s doctor
Vitamin D levels are not routinely checked in children. However, our study supports that doctors should consider checking vitamin D levels in infancy or early childhood. This is especially true for children with asthma or those at high risk for asthma.
Discuss with your child’s doctor whether your child should have his or her vitamin D level checked and whether supplements might be needed to keep your child’s levels in the normal range. It’s also important to address if your child is at high risk for asthma. Your doctor can help you determine strategies for asthma management and potential treatments that will minimize the impact of TRAP exposure.
Editor’s note: Jocelyn Biagini Myers, PhD, a molecular epidemiologist at Cincinnati Children’s, also contributed to this blog post.