I was recently reminded how important Vitamin C is to your health when my children and I caught a nasty bug last week. It’s hard to be sure whether our severe congestion, sinus pressure and cough was entirely a sinus infection or a mild cold. But whatever it was, it was really unpleasant!
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I knew it would run its course and eventually my kiddos would be well again, but, like any mom, I hated to see my babies feeling bad! So I had to revisit some resources to find out how I could boost our immune systems in order to recover more quickly– because the sickness had really started to linger!
There are so many things you can do for kids to support their immune system, like the home remedies I mentioned in this post. One of the easiest and fastest acting ways to combat sickness is by giving Vitamin C! And yet, there seems to be a lot of vague guidance for giving kids Vitamins.
Here are the most common questions about giving babies and toddlers Vitamin C are…
- Should babies and toddlers get Vitamin C? And if so, why and when?
- How much Vitamin C should I give my kids daily and how much when they are sick?
- What is the best form of Vitamin C to give to children?
Not long ago I had the same questions about Vitamin C and this is what I found regarding the general recommendations from health professionals…
Are Vitamin C Supplements Recommended in Babies and Toddlers?
Around 6 months of age, or once babies begin weaning from breastfeeding, supplementing Vitamin C is recommended. That being said, the best way to get Vitamin C into babies and toddlers is by feeding them foods containing it. Did you know strawberries have more Vitamin C than oranges?
Here are foods containing good amounts of Vitamin C.
Unless you are buying from a source you know and trust, it can be hard to ensure that foods are grown in nutrient-rich soil, free from harmful contaminants. For this reason, buying these foods organic and local whenever possible is the way to go!
How Much Vitamin C Should Kids Get Every Day?
This is where the recommendations vary. The NIH (National Institute of Health) recommend the following Vitamin C amounts for babies and toddlers.
Yet there are health experts who are reporting that even the recommended daily amount is still not enough to ensure children’s optimal immune function and the ability to effectively detoxify. Furthermore, they advise that the previously mentioned recommendation be a baseline requirement, depending on the diet and overall health of an individual child.
So, how do parents decide how much is an adequate amount of Vitamin C for their children?
Well, one thing medical professionals do agree on is that Vitamin C is one of the most critical nutrients needed by every cell in the body. It’s required for fighting sickness, repairing injuries, absorbing iron and the health of teeth and gums, to name just a few. And there isn’t really a medical concern for overdosing on Vitamin C either. (See side effects and cautions below) Therefore, parents can feel comfortable in deciding the dosage themselves for their child, depending on the child’s health needs. Of course, it’s always advisable to consult your own healthcare provider when trying to make the best medical decisions for your family.
Vitamin C for Children When They Are Sick
Vitamin C is exceptionally important when babies and toddlers are sick. When the body is fighting off an infection or repairing damaged tissues, it requires extra Vitamin C to replenish what’s been taken from those cells. That’s where evidence suggests parents should give children higher doses of Vitamin C. Those higher doses are listed in the following image.
As you can see, the total dose is spread out into multiple doses throughout the day. This is because medical studies have shown that the body can only absorb so much Vitamin C per hour (somewhere around 250mg, increasing with illness severity). So giving several smaller doses is the most effective way to give the higher doses of Vitamin C to kids (and adults too).
What Type of Vitamin C is Best for Kids?
Researchers have found that ascorbic acid and whole-foods supplements (supplements containing plant-based Vitamin C) are absorbed by the body about the same way. Meaning, the cheaper ascorbic acid supplements are recognized and used by the body the same way as the more costly, “real” or “whole” Vitamin C supplements.
However, there is one big benefit of giving whole-foods Vitamin C: that, since they are derived from foods like berries and melons, they also contain many other nutrients that support good health. So keep that in mind when deciding which type of Vitamin C is best for your child. (I keep both on hand and will explain that in a moment.)
In general, medical professionals who have studied all the benefits of Vitamin C advise to give Vitamin C in this way:
- Offer foods that contain Vitamin C first.
- Then give a whole-foods source of Vitamin C supplement daily that meets the recommended requirements described above.
- When sick, follow the higher dosing chart recommendation using an ascorbic acid supplement in addition to the first two methods.
Best Quality Vitamin C Brands for Kids
For daily, whole-foods Vitamin C, I give the Essential C Complex from Paleovalley. I feel confident that my kids are getting the best quality Vitamin C from this source. The price is comparable to most other whole-foods Vitamin supplements and they guarantee their product quality. It’s free from all the harmful contaminants and includes zero fillers.
Dosing Vitamin C: We all take 1 capsule of the Essential C Complex every day. For the kids, I just sprinkle the contents into a smoothie, juice cup, applesauce or oatmeal.
We use Ascorbic Crystals for higher Vitamin C dosing when we’re sick or need a little boost for our immune system. I’ll give the kids up to 500mg of ascorbic acid every 1 to 3 hours in addition to extra strawberries and blueberries. I also use a few other nutrient-packed herbs, spices and whole foods listed in this post.
I’ve found that following this regimen works great for us. My toddlers’ immune systems are stronger when supplementing with Vitamin C regularly in addition to eating Vitamin C rich food daily. And when they are sick, they seem to recover much quicker when they’re getting the extra doses of Vitamin C!
Side Effects and Cautions of Vitamin C
Fortunately, the only side effect of giving too much Vitamin C to children (who are normally healthy and have no underlying disease) is loose bowel movements. At which point, you’ll know to back off of the Vitamin C because your child’s body is getting all it can absorb at that time. Our bodies can’t store it, so when more Vitamin C is taken in than is needed, it is excreted in the urine and feces. This effect has shown to be helpful in eliminating toxins like lead or other heavy metals, but that’s a topic for another post!
So if you were on the fence about supplementing Vitamin C for your young children, hopefully this cleared some things up for you. Feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!
In addition to daily Vitamin C, I give my littles a couple teaspoons of Elderberry Syrup every day to prevent the flu and other viruses. Check out my super easy Elderberry Syrup recipe!
As with any supplement or medication, consult a health professional for medical advice.