Q&A: Choosing Vitamins For Your Kids, Teens

Here are the answers to a selection of your questions on vitamin supplements, as provided by Dr. Lawrence D. Rosen, a New Jersey pediatrician and a founding member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Integrative Medicine.

Mitri in Wilmington, N.C., asks: I give my kids a complete multivitamin every two days. Is it save for my kids? On the bottle it says "Pediatrician Recommended." Thank you for your time and kindness.

Answer: While I cannot discuss specific brands, in general, it is safe for most children to take a multivitamin product. We would love for all our kids to get their nutrients from a healthy, well-balanced whole foods diet, but that is sadly impractical for many families. Vitamins and minerals can be seen as insurance against deficiencies and, in some cases, as part of an optimal health plan. Try to find a brand with natural sweeteners, not tons of sugar or sugar substitutes, and check doses of specific nutrients like vitamin A with your pediatrician. As with all medicines, store them in a safe, secure location away from the reach of children.

Chris in Jackson, Tenn., asks: I have a 15-year old son who is a distance runner. There are several supplements that claim to help with endurance and vo2 max. My basic question is, are there any supplements that are safe and work? Thank you

Answer: The safest plan to help our children thrive is based on lifestyle -- healthy foods, proper amount of sleep and exercise. The best kind of protein is found in healthy lean meats or vegetable sources. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend any supplements for use by children under 18 for the purpose of fitness or body building or weight control. There may pose specific dangers to the kidneys, liver and heart caused by components of these supplements. Some have been found to be tainted with steroids and others with dangerous amounts of ephedra, an herbal stimulant.

Misti in Georgia asks: I give my 7-year old daughter an herbal supplement of Melatonin, 3 mg to help her sleep at night. Her pediatrician recommended it because of her inability to fall asleep due to the side effects of an additional medication she takes, Focalin xr. I often worry about giving her this, but her doctor assured me it was fine. Without it, she stays up until midnight or later. What is your opinion on the safety of this for long-term use?

Answer: Melatonin is a neurohormone found naturally in our bodies, and it regulates sleep-wake cycles. Certain children (those with ADHD for example) may be deficient in melatonin, and synthetic sources given orally may be helpful for those children to combat sleep difficulties (Weiss M, et al: "Sleep Hygiene and Melatonin Treatment for Children and Adolescents With ADHD and Initial Insomnia." J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2006 Mar 10). Whenever working with natural health products, especially in combination with a prescription medicine, consult with a health care provider who can guide you as to proper use of the supplement.

Sonia in Knoxville, Tenn., asks: I have a daughter who is a healthy 14-year old, 5 feet 5 inches, weighing approximately 96 pounds. She eats fairly well, I don't keep junk food in the house nor sodas. I have thought of supplements to try to have her gain some weight. Should I? Or should I just let nature take it's course.

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