Vitamin K and children: why it is so important

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Vitamin K and children

La Vitamin K it is essential for the proper functioning of blood coagulation. It also plays a role in bone health. For years, as a further preventive measure, mothers who breastfeed exclusively at the breast have been advised to administer drops from the fifteenth day of life up to 3 months old: in fact, breast milk, unlike formula, does not contain vitamin K Now, on the other hand, immediately after birth, an intramuscular injection of vitamin K is practiced directly in the hospital for newborns. Let's see the importance of vitamin D and K in newborns.

In this article

  • Vitamin K and children: its importance
  • Low levels of vitamin K
  • Vitamin K deficiency
  • How to give vitamin K to the child
Read also: Supplements and vitamins for children

Vitamin K and children: its importance

"Vitamin K is important for the production of substances that contribute to normal blood clotting" explains Lina Bollani, neonatologist at the San Matteo polyclinic in Pavia. "At birth, babies have a physiological deficiency of this vitamin because its transfer into the uterus through the placenta is limited and consequently they can undergo the so-called hemorrhagic disease of the newborn, rare but potentially serious. "For this reason the World Health Organization recommends the administration of 1 mg of vitamin K immediately after birth, by intramuscular injection. "And since breast milk is a poor source of vitamin K - continues Bollani - in breastfed children, supplementation by mouth is generally also recommended until the completion of the third month of life", as recently recommended by the Del Paesena Society of Neonatology. 

Other scientific societies, on the other hand, argue that the intramuscular injection carried out immediately after birth is sufficient, as also required by the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics of 2022.

Low levels of vitamin K

Some infants in the first few months of life may have low vitamin K levels for various reasons:

  • reduced transfer of vitamin K from mother to fetus during pregnancy
  • low vitamin K content in breast milk
  • reduced synthesis of vitamin K by the intestinal flora of the newborn in the first days of life

This can cause various types of bleeding: s

  • bleeding from the mucous membranes
  • blood loss in the gut and navel
  • severe, albeit rare, cerebral haemorrhages

A lack of vitamin K also causes weakening of the bones with osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures.

Risks of Vitamin K Excess

An excess of vitamin K is not harmful unless you take one anticoagulant therapy with warfarin. In this case, it is a good idea to monitor your daily vitamin K intake with your doctor.

Vitamin K deficiency

Vitamin K deficiency can cause bleeding in babies in the first 3 months of life. The disease is conventionally divided into three forms: early, classical and late.

  • early (6-12%) occurs within the first 24 hours of life, almost exclusively in newborn babies of mothers who take drugs that inhibit vitamin K: anticonvulsants (carbamazepine, phenytoin, barbiturates), antituberculin drugs (isoniazid and rifampicin), antibiotics , vitamin K antagonists (coumarin and warfarin).
  • classical occurs within 24 hours - 7 days of life and is associated with delayed or inadequate nutrition.
  • tardiva has been described mainly in the presence of cholestasis and especially in those who are exclusively breastfed. It occurs between the second week and 6 months of life. It is generally very serious, with a mortality of 20%; intracranial haemorrhage is found in about 50% of cases. 

How to give vitamin K to the child

Immediately after birth, your baby will receive the vitamin K injection or the first oral dose, given by your doctor or midwife. If you have chosen oral administration:

  • The second oral dose can be given when your baby is undergoing a neonatal test at the hospital or by your doctor or healthcare provider.
  • It is important to remember the third oral dose when your baby is 3 or 4 weeks old. If you need help or advice, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.

Article sources: Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital, NHMRC.GOV.AU

  • Vitamins
  • birth
  • newborn 0-3 months
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