Most parents are familiar with the ritual of lathering their kids up with sunscreen before they play out in the sun. Protection from the harmful effects of UV radiation makes perfect sense, and short of keeping your kids indoors all of the time, there are simple and straightforward ways to reduce your child's exposure.

Benefits of the Sun

However, when it comes to the health effects of the sun, the news is not all bad. In fact, it has become increasingly clear that there are valid health benefits derived the sun, primarily in our body's production of vitamin D. Recent evidence increasingly indicates that vitamin D plays an important role in a variety of bodily functions.

Conversely, deficiencies in vitamin D have been linked to several health problems, including Parkinson's disease, obesity, tuberculosis, gastrointestinal disorders, and dementia. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiencies are common in this country, and aside from supplements, the primary source is exposure to the sun.

Vitamin D and Asthma

Now researchers have found a possible link between vitamin D deficiencies and childhood asthma. In fact, the condition is more prevalent in regions where children get fewer hours of sun exposure, particularly in northern climates where it tends to be cooler and wetter.

To arrive at their conclusions, researchers looked at more than 45,000 children and found that environmental conditions, particularly the hours of sunlight that people are exposed to, can play a significant role in determining the prevalence of asthma.

Understanding Asthma

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the lungs, constricting the airways and making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and difficulty in breathing. The mornings and evenings are the times when asthma seems to crop up most frequently.

Though asthma can affect a person at any age, it often appears during childhood. Of the estimated 22 million people in this country affected by the disorder, 6 million of them are children, making it one of the most common childhood disorder.

What Parents Can Do

The benefits of vitamin D are still be studied, but if you feel that your child is not getting enough, there are ways to increase their levels, mainly through supplementation or spending time outside. It does not take much, maybe 30 minutes, but keep in mind that the sun's rays can be harmful, so avoid peak sun times. Vitamin D can also be obtained through supplements or fortification of certain foods.

As with all health related issues, before taking your kids out in the sun or giving them any supplements, consult with a doctor.

If you suspect that your child has asthma, speak with your pediatrician. The symptoms of asthma can be lessened by taking certain steps, including:

  • Keep the house as clean as possible, especially when it comes to dust or pet hair.
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes.
  • Feed them a healthy diet.
  • Close windows during pollen season.
  • Get an air filter for their room.

If you have questions or concerns about asthma, visit the website for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

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