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Dear Dr Cannell: D for childhood asthma

Posted on: August 16, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD


Dear Dr. Cannell:

I supplement my son with 2,000 to 4000IU a day to help with his asthma and it is a GREAT help; he had severe asthma, but it is so much better. However, I am hoping that I am not damaging him later in life. Could you please share anything with me that might calm my nerves?

His levels are between 60 and 8 ng/ml when they are checked but at one point, I got him to 103 ng/ml on one occasion and it worried me. He is seven and is 62lbs. I have been supplementing him since he was five with about the same dose give or take and in the summers, I don’t usually sunscreen him and skip the supplemented D. He tans nicely but used to burn.

Darn it is hard doing this when my pediatrician does not recommend this treatment.



Dear Mary:
In achieving levels of 60 ng/ml, all you are doing is giving him natural vitamin D levels. The one level of 103 will do no harm at all. There is absolutely no research to suggest this will harm him later in life, but as you know, a severe attack of asthma in children can be fatal. I wrote about childhood asthma before in the blog; researchers at Harvard recently showed that higher vitamin D levels are associated with improved asthma symptoms and reduces the amount of asthma meds that children need.

I’m glad you let him out without sunscreen in the summer as the sun does lots of things besides make vitamin D. As you may know, children with natural vitamin D levels are less sun sensitive and can sometimes forego sunblock after a few weeks in the sun.

As far as your pediatrician’s recommendation, go with your own observation and the 2012 scientific literature. I’m sure your doctor is well intentioned, but it will take years for the Vitamin D Era to trickle down to many practicing physicians. My advice is to do what you are doing, tell your doctor of the improvement, print out the abstracts of 2012 articles below, show them to your pediatrician and tell him all you want is for your child to have moderate (60 ng/ml) normal vitamin D levels, stressing the “normal.” Free-living hunter-gatherer tribes, lifeguards and roofers frequently have such levels.

Further reading:

Wu AC, Tantisira K, Li L, Fuhlbrigge AL, Weiss ST, Litonjua A; for the Childhood Asthma Management Program Research Group. The Effect of Vitamin D and Inhaled Corticosteroid Treatment on Lung Function in Children. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2012 Jul 12.

Bener A, Ehlayel MS, Tulic MK, Hamid Q.  Vitamin D deficiency as a strong predictor of asthma in children. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2012;157(2):168-75. Epub 2011 Oct 6.

Maalmi H, Berraïes A, Tangour E, Ammar J, Abid H, Hamzaoui K, Hamzaoui A.  The impact of vitamin D deficiency on immune T cells in asthmatic children: a case-control study.  J Asthma Allergy. 2012;5:11-9. Epub 2012 May 9.

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