Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Food for Thought: Rickets on the Rise?


After reviewing hospital records between January 1997 and June 1999, the CDC identified six cases of children with rickets and three cases of children with another disease, called protein energy malnutrition (PEM), that were not related to abnormalities present at birth or to chronic infection. These cases are reported in the current issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Nine cases may not sound like much, but it could be the tip of the iceberg.

"Although we found only six children with rickets and three cases of PEM, we feel that this may be an underestimate of the total number of cases because these cases were from hospitalized children, and rickets is typically diagnosed at an outpatient clinic," study co-author Kay Tomashek, MD, MPH, tells WebMD.

Tomashek, who at the time was working at the Georgia Division of Public Health and is now at the CDC's Pregnancy and Infant Health Branch, says that the CDC has received reports of other cases of severe malnutrition from physicians in other parts of the country. She wrote an editorial on the subject that appears in this month's issue of the scientific journal Pediatrics.

Carvalho, who also has an article about his two patients that appears in Pediatrics, agrees.

"The cases we see are the most severe cases requiring hospitalization," he says. "For every one hospitalized child, perhaps there are two or more that are not detected at all."

And because rickets and PEM are so rare now, many physicians may not recognize them easily, Carvalho says.

Why this increase? Carvalho attributes it to changes in social and environmental conditions.

"Parents are working longer hours," he says. "Air quality has been poor, so kids stay indoors more. All in all, people are getting less sun exposure and that makes them more dependent on dietary sources for vitamin D requirement."

Carvalho says that dark-skinned children are at higher risk since the melanin in their skin prevents them from absorbing as much sunshine as those with fair complexions.

Another factor, Carvalho says, is "an increase in utilization of health food milk alternatives [like rice milk] which often don't contain vitamin D." Rice drinks in particular are a poor choice for infants, he says, since they also are low in protein and can lead to PEM.

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
jennifer aniston
Measles virus
sick child

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration