Foods like eggs, butter, salmon, and herring are good sources of vitamin D. But unlike other vitamins, vitamin D is also made by your child’s own body, with a little assistance from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. When your child is exposed to sunlight, it helps his body synthesize vitamin D in the skin. And it doesn’t take much time in the sun to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D.
However, not all children and adolescents get enough sunlight, particularly during certain times of the year or in northern regions of the United States. Dense cloud covers and high levels of air pollution can reduce the ultraviolet rays reaching the skin. In addition, your teenager’s own skin characteristics can affect the vitamin D that his own body makes. In particular, the pigment in his skin is an important factor to consider; darker skinned people manufacture less vitamin D than those whose skin is lighter.
As important as sunscreen is to protect your teenager from skin cancer later in life, it can also interfere with sunlight’s positive effects. Talk to your pediatrician about finding a balance between brief periods of sun exposure and sunscreen use.