Ensure your children get the necessary nutrients their growing
bones need. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may reduce
- Get more daily D
- Make sure your child eats foods rich in vitamin D and calcium and
spends a little time every day in the sun
- Take your child for a checkup
- Visit a healthcare professional to determine if your child’s
rickets is caused by a treatable medical condition, and to determine the best nutritional
These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace
the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading the full rickets article for more
in-depth, fully-referenced information on medicines, vitamins, herbs, and dietary and
lifestyle changes that may be helpful.
Rickets is an abnormal bone formation in children resulting from inadequate calcium in their bones.
This lack of calcium can result from inadequate dietary calcium,1 inadequate
exposure to sunshine (needed to make vitamin D), or from not eating enough vitamin D—a nutrient needed for calcium
absorption. Vitamin D is found in animal foods, such as egg yolks and dairy products.
Rickets can also be caused by conditions that impair absorption of vitamin D and/or
calcium, even when these nutrients are consumed in appropriate amounts. Activation of vitamin
D in the body requires normal liver and kidney function. Damage to either organ can cause
rickets. Some variations of rickets do not respond well to supplementation with vitamin D and
calcium. Proper diagnosis must be made by a healthcare professional.
Osteomalacia is an adult version of rickets. This condition is treated with vitamin D,
sometimes in combination with calcium supplements. Osteomalacia should be diagnosed, and its
treatment monitored, by a doctor.
Product ratings for rickets
What are the symptoms?
In children, symptoms of rickets include delayed sitting, crawling, and walking; pain when
walking; and the development of bowlegs or knock-knees. Symptoms of osteomalacia include
bowing of the legs and a decrease in height.
Over-the-counter supplementation with oral vitamin D is recommended.
Treatment of rickets and osteomalacia sometimes include intravenous calcium. Some health care providers may recommend the
use of artificial ultraviolet B radiation or increased exposure to sunlight.
Dietary changes that may be helpful
Dietary changes should only be considered if a medical professional has diagnosed rickets
and determined the cause to be a simple nutritional deficiency. Rickets is more likely to
occur in a child consuming a pure vegan diet (which does not include animal products and thus
no vitamin D) than in a child consuming milk or other animal foods. Dark skin and/or a lack of
sunlight exposure (which reduces the amount of vitamin D made in the skin) also increase the
risk of developing rickets.
The few foods that contain vitamin D
include egg yolks, butter, vitamin D-fortified milk, fish liver oil, breast milk, and infant formula.
Calcium, in addition to being present in
breast milk and formula, is found in dairy
products, sardines, salmon (canned with
edible bones), green leafy vegetables, and tofu. Vegans may use supplements instead of eggs
and dairy as sources for both calcium and vitamin D.
Lifestyle changes that may be helpful
Direct exposure of the skin (i.e., hands, face, arms, etc.) to sunlight stimulates the body
to manufacture vitamin D. However, both
clothing and use of a sunscreen prevent the ultraviolet light that triggers the formation of
vitamin D from reaching the skin. Depending on latitude, sunlight during the winter may not
provide enough ultraviolet light to promote adequate vitamin D production. At other times
during the year, even 30 minutes of exposure per day will usually lead to large increases in
the amount of vitamin D made. If it is difficult to get sunlight exposure, full-spectrum
lighting can be used to stimulate vitamin D production.
Vitamins that may be helpful
Vitamin D and calcium supplements should be used to treat rickets
only if a medical professional has diagnosed rickets and has also determined the cause is a
nutritional deficiency. Amounts needed to treat rickets should be determined by a doctor and
will depend on the age, weight, and condition of the child. For prevention of
rickets, 400 IU of vitamin D per day is considered reasonable. Doctors often suggest 1,600 IU
per day for treating rickets caused by a lack of dietary vitamin D.
The National Institutes of Health has stated that the following amounts of total calcium
intake per day are useful to prevent rickets:
• 400 mg until six months of age
• 600 mg from six to twelve months
• 800 mg from one year through age five
• 800–1,200 mg from age six until age ten
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual supplement for information about any side effects or interactions.
1. Thacher TD, Fischer PR, Pettifor JM, et al. A comparison of calcium,
vitamin D, or both for nutritional rickets in Nigerian children. N Engl J Med