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At What Age Can Children Take Multivitamins? (Science-Based)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: January 24, 2022

While multivitamin supplements are generally beneficial, giving them to your child too soon may not be a good idea.

I’ve spent hours researching studies and consulting my go-to dietitian to discover when children can start taking multivitamins.

I found that they may cause side effects if introduced at a too young age.

So, here are all our findings.

Quick Summary

  • Children shouldn’t start taking multivitamins before they’re at least six months old.
  • Children’s vitamin supplements should contain vitamins A, C, and D.
  • Follow the FNB’s Recommended Dietary Allowances for children, and avoid fat-soluble vitamins and megavitamins.

When Can A Child Start Taking Multivitamins?

female kid holding up her vitamins

A child can start taking multivitamins at six months of age [1]. It’s recommended that children between six months and five years take supplements containing:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D

However, not all children need vitamin or mineral supplements. Mostly, they’ll get all the nutrients they need from a healthy diet.

That’s why it’s recommended you wait until your child is at least four years old to determine if he needs a multivitamin supplement [2].

With that said, there are a few instances in which healthy foods may not provide enough micronutrients to your child. We’ll go through such cases below.

Related: Best Multivitamins For Teens

When Should You Give A Child Vitamins?

child hugging her mom in the kitchen

Vitamin and mineral supplements aren’t necessary for all children. However, they might be necessary when [3]:

  • A child’s diet doesn’t provide enough nutrients: Children need a balanced diet that includes fresh and whole foods. However, some children don’t have such a diet. Maybe your child is a picky eater, allergic to some food, or perhaps you’re putting him on a specific type of diet — such as a vegetarian or vegan diet — that doesn’t provide enough nutrients.
  • A child has chronic medical conditions: Some children may need vitamin supplements if they suffer from conditions such as asthma or digestive problems. But you should definitely consult the child’s doctor before giving him any supplements to check whether it’s O.K. to use them with the prescribed medications.
  • A child’s growth is delayed: Multivitamin supplements can help children with delayed physical or developmental growth.

Which Vitamins And Minerals Do Children Need?

different ingredients

I’ll list a few common vitamins and minerals that some children lack — especially if they’re on a restrictive diet.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A deficiency mainly occurs when children don’t have a diverse diet, which would include green vegetables and fruits [4].

A lack of this vitamin may lead to impaired vision and increase the risk of illness from childhood infections. You can prevent these symptoms by making your child’s diet more diverse or with multivitamins.

Vitamins B

Children may lack a few different vitamin Bs, but they most commonly lack vitamin B12 due to a plant-based diet [5].

Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to severe cognitive issues, such as poor memory, confusion, and even dementia. If you recognize these symptoms in your child, consult with your doctor and check whether you should introduce a multivitamin supplement.

Vitamin D

capsule in the hands of a person

Vitamin D deficiency is common with children who don’t drink milk because they’re lactose intolerant, sensitive to dairy or practice a vegan diet [6].

A lack of this vitamin can lead to poor bone density or lead to rickets in children.

Rickets cause bones to become soft and bendable [7].

Considering the seriousness of these symptoms, you might want to use a vitamin D supplement to prevent them — especially if your child is on a dairy-free or vegan diet.

Calcium

Low calcium levels are also commonly caused by not drinking enough milk or consuming dairy products [8]. You can easily recognize some of the common symptoms of hypocalcemia, like fatigue, insomnia, and nail and skin problems.

Other symptoms, such as osteoporosis and depression, may not be so prominent.

Try to give your child calcium supplements or introduce more calcium-rich foods in his diet. Soy milk, for example, is a suitable replacement for cow’s milk.

Iron

Children on vegan diets sometimes lack iron [9]. However, iron deficiency is the most common deficiency worldwide, so your child may suffer from it even if he’s not on a restrictive diet.

Good sources of iron include lentils, tofu, beans, spinach, and dried fruits. Alternatively, you can use multivitamin supplements — they frequently contain iron, although it’s a mineral.

How Much Vitamins And Minerals Does A Child Need?

stack of vitamins

Maybe you’re wondering just how much vitamins and minerals your child needs.

The FNB’s RDAs (Recommended Dietary Allowances) may help you understand this [10].

Children between 4 and 8 years need the following doses of vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamin A: 0.4 mg/day
  • Vitamin B6: 0.6 mg/day
  • Vitamin B12: 0.0012 mg/day
  • Vitamin C: 25 mg/day
  • Vitamin D: 0.015 mg/day
  • Vitamin E: 7 mg/day
  • Calcium: 1,000 mg/day
  • Iron: 10 mg/day
  • Magnesium: 130 mg/day
  • Zinc: 5 mg/day

Children between 9 and 13 need vitamins and minerals in slightly higher doses:

  • Vitamin A: 0.6 mg/day
  • Vitamin B6: 1 mg/day
  • Vitamin B12: 0.0018 mg/day
  • Vitamin C: 45 mg/day
  • Vitamin D: 0.015 mg/day
  • Vitamin E: 11 mg/day
  • Calcium: 1,300 mg/day
  • Iron: 8 mg/day
  • Magnesium: 240 mg/day
  • Zinc: 8 mg/day

Ingredients To Avoid

little girl holding a container with a disgusted face

Firstly, you should absolutely avoid megavitamins, i.e., large doses of vitamins. Stick to the RDAs we’ve mentioned above.

Also, avoid large amounts of fat-soluble vitamins.

They may be toxic for young children if taken in high doses [10]. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble vitamins, so be careful when introducing supplements that contain them.

Lastly, keep in mind that children’s multivitamins often contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, or both.

And since sweeteners can lead to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome [11], it’d be best to avoid supplements that contain them.

FAQs

How Can I Boost My Toddler’s Immune System?

You can boost your toddler’s immune system with a diverse and well-balanced diet that includes lots of vegetables, fruits, and lean meats. If a toddler has a naturally weak immune system, you may want to use vitamin supplements.

How Do You Know if Your Child Has a Weak Immune System?

You’ll know your child has a weak immune system if he frequently suffers from digestive issues, infections, or inflammation. Also, children with weak immune systems usually have delayed physical or developmental growth [12].

Should Healthy Children Take Multivitamins?

Most healthy kids don’t need multivitamins unless they’re on a restrictive diet.

But assessing whether your child lacks vitamins isn’t always easy since some vitamin deficiencies don’t have noticeable symptoms.

Your pediatrician might help in that area. He may note deficiencies at regular visits and blood checks.

In that case,  introducing a multivitamin supplement may be a good idea: make sure to check out our recommendations for vitamin supplements for 2-year-olds to get started.


References:

  1. https://www.babycentre.co.uk/x1011172/do-i-need-to-give-my-toddler-a-vitamin-supplement 
  2. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/vitamins-for-kids-do-healthy-kids-need-vitamins#1 
  3. https://www.arnoldpalmerhospital.com/content-hub/should-i-start-giving-my-child-vitamins 
  4. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/nutritional-disorders/vitamin-deficiency,-dependency,-and-toxicity/vitamin-a-deficiency 
  5. https://www.foodunfolded.com/article/plant-based-diet-vitamin-b12-sources
  6. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/early/2017/04/26/jn.116.246108.abstract 
  7. https://medlineplus.gov/vitaminddeficiency.html
  8. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325283 
  9. https://www.everydayhealth.com/anemia/anemia-risk-for-vegans-and-vegetarians.aspx 
  10. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/life-stages/children 
  11. https://www.oxylent.com/research-continues-mount-artificial-sweeteners/ 
  12. https://depts.washington.edu/ceeh/downloads/Fast%20Facts%20Fat%20Soluble%20Vitamins%20063015.pdf 
  13. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/primary-immunodeficiency/symptoms-causes/syc-20376905

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