Fall children and vitamin D

Although I am not a follower of astrology in any way, I do believe that the time of the year when a person is born has influence on some aspects of who he is. It is a secret hobby of mine to guess a person’s approximate birthday based on my personal impression. While playing this game I noticed that most people I know who severely suffer from eczema, asthma, psoriasis, food allergies and/or auto immune disease (e.g. vtitiligo) are born in late summer/early fall (end of August / beginning of October).

Unexpected support for this observation came yesterday when I read again passages in David Atherton’s book [1] (thank you Cindy for recommending this book!). Atherton states in the beginning of chapter 14 that “[…] risk of eczema differs with month of birth, those children born during the autumn months being at the greatest risk”. He further suggests that this “reflects heavier exposure to house dust mite droppings at this time of the year”.

I wonder if the dust mite droppings are enough of an explanation. Especially because in late summer/early fall it is often still very warm. Our son J. had first signs of dry skin and cradle cap long before the cold weather forced us inside. I rather want to put forward an alternative hypothesis, that the increased risk of atopy or immune impairment is associated with some deficiency in the mother during the first three months of pregnancy, possibly a vitamin D deficiency. Some support for this hypothesis might come from a recent study [2,3] that shows that in the US the risk for eczema is highest in people who are “living in metropolitan areas, those with a higher household-education level, and those belonging to black ethnic groups”. Aren’t those the same groups that are generally associated with vitamin D deficient?

A quick search on PubMed for “eczema vitamin d” didn’t find much, but in one Japanese study [4] children of mothers who took a higher dose of vitamin D “had a significantly reduced risk of wheeze and eczema” (according to the abstract; I don’t have access to the full text version).  Wouldn’t that be great if one could lower the risk of eczema in children simply by supplying the mother with enough vitamin D? I still have to read more on that, but it seems to me that there has not been much research done in this direction. Please let me know if you came across a study that is more conclusive.

References:

[1] David J. Atherton (1994) Eczema in childhood. The facts. Oxford Medical Publications, Oxford University Press.

[2] Shaw, TE, Currie, GP, Koudelka, CW, Simpson, EL (2011). Eczema prevalence in the United States: data from the 2003 National Survey of Children’s Health. J. Invest. Dermatol., 131, 1:67-73.

[3] Williams, HC (2011). Eczema across the World: The Missing Piece of the Jigsaw Revealed. Journal of Investigative Dermatology 131, 12–14. Free Access

[4] Miyake, Y, Sasaki, S, Tanaka, K, Hirota, Y (2010). Dairy food, calcium and vitamin D intake in pregnancy, and wheeze and eczema in infants. Eur. Respir. J., 35, 6:1228-34.

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5 Responses to Fall children and vitamin D

  1. Spanish Key says:

    I like this theory– especially since I happen to have been an October baby. But I don’t think that living in a metropolitan area or having a higher education level is linked with lower vitamin D. (I’m not sure if there are any groups labelled as vit-D-deficient in developed countries– are there? Especially since vitamin D is added to milk, at least in North America.)

    There’s a lot of quackery out there on the internet about how a lot of vitamin D is good for you, which also makes me wary. But I get your point that it might be possible to lower the risk of a baby’s developing eczema by increasing a mother’s vitamin D (as we already do with folate for neural tube defects).

    The first thing to do, though is make sure Atherton’s claim that eczema risk varies by month is valid. I hadn’t heard of this link. Has it been repeated in many studies?
    Also– in the Southern Hemisphere those months have longer daylight hours. So I’m guessing Atherton is only referring to those of us up north. I’d be impressed by a study showing that kids in the south were more likely to get eczema if they were born in early spring!

    • Caroline says:

      I completely agree with you, Spanish Key, that it would be important to actually see the data that support this hypothesis, including the data on which Atherton based his claims. And of course a study from the southern hemisphere would be great. So far I haven’t been able to find anything useful.

      I am still looking for good information on vitamin D. According to a strong advocate for the benefits of vitamin D on the internet, Dr. Mercola, people with dark skin and living in inner city areas are more prone to vitamine D deficiency. According to him the amount one needs to sustain a healthy vitamin D level is much higher than usually recommended, and I would guess that the supplementation of e.g. milk is much below this level and not enough to compensate for insufficient sun exposure. People who spend much time indoors (these could include, and here I am speculating, the once who work long office hours, tend to have higher education and live in metropolitan areas) are probably the ones who most likely suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Of course one still needs to find a link between vitamin D deficiency and eczema, which might not be easy because of many covariances. So far, these are all speculations. I would really love to see a good study on this….

      If you happen to come across anything in this direction that discusses a link between eczema/atopy and vitamin D, please let me know!

      • I’ve really become a strong advocate of Vitamin D over the last 18 months. My ‘formerly extremely’ atopic son (born in May) has made great stride since revamping his regiment at the recommendation of his pediatrician (who is an MD and holds another degree in genetics) who recommends 2000 IUs of Vitamin D per day for my 34 pound son, along with Probiotics and a good fish oil. All 3 have qualities that reduce inflammation and support immunity. I say ‘formerly extremely’ because he looks like a new kid (at one point the docs wanted to send him out to Jewish National in Denver for hospitalization to bring the eczema under control.) The outbreaks are much more controlled now and the itching has largely diminished.

        I’ve also witnessed first hand at the distress a severe Vitamin D deficiency can cause on one’s body. A relative of mine who works long hours in an office without windows started having skin issues, his face had taken on the look psoriasis and reminded me of a heavy drinker. After undergoing numerous blood tests it was determined that his liver was not functioning properly. The final diagnosis was a severe Vit D deficiency. He put on 50,000 IUS of D2/week and told not to partake in anything that could cause a fall as the docs were worried of bone breakage. His symptoms have since greatly improved.

        As for research (although not eczema related), there’s another Japanese study showed that children taking Vitamin D3 were 58 percent less likely to catch influenza A. That’s a higher effectiveness than any flu vaccine can claim:
        http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62I3MK20100319

        Maybe take a peak at the website for The Vitamin D Council. Of course the could be bias, but I’ve seen it posted elsewhere as well that Caucasian skin produces approximately 10,000 IU vitamin D in response to 20–30 minutes summer sun exposure. The problem these days is sunscreen which blocks the much needed UVB rays to produce Vitamin D. http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/

  2. Caroline says:

    For a continuation of this discussion, please visit the blog post at End Eczema.

  3. Caroline says:

    Thanks, Eczema Mom, for sharing your story about vitamin D. I just had blood work done myself to check my vitamin D level and I will see my doctor on Monday to discuss with her the vitamin D issue. She told me that vitamin D is somewhat her hobby, so I am hopeful that it will be informative, and we will hopefully find a good solution for J. as well. Thanks also for sharing the links. That will help me to prepare myself for my doctor’s appointment.

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