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

Health & Baby

Font Size

Low Vitamin D at Birth Linked to Lung Infections

Sixfold Higher Risk of RSV Lung Infection for Newborns With Low Vitamin D
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 10, 2011 -- Newborns with low vitamin D levels have a sixfold higher risk of lung infections with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Dutch researchers say.

RSV is the major cause of serious lung infections in infants. During the first 12 months of life, it's the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia in the U.S.

Low vitamin D levels have been suspected of playing a role in vulnerability to RSV. This led Mirjam E. Belderbos, MD, of the Utrecht University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and colleagues to measure vitamin D levels in the cord blood of 156 newborns and then to follow the children for one year.

At birth, more than a quarter of the infants had low vitamin D -- serum levels of less than 20 ng/mL. During their first year of life, these kids had a sixfold higher risk of RSV lung infection than did the 46% of kids whose vitamin D levels at birth were at least 30 ng/mL.

"We demonstrated that 54% of healthy newborns in the Netherlands are born with insufficient [vitamin D] concentrations required for maximum health, and that low plasma concentrations of [vitamin D] are associated with increased risk of RSV lower-respiratory tract infections in the first year of life," Belderbos and colleagues report.

It's not just the Netherlands. Other Western nations, including the U.S., have similar rates of low vitamin D.

U.S. researchers reported in 2010 that at a single Boston hospital, 58% of infants and 36% of mothers had low vitamin D levels (under 20 ng/mL). Severe vitamin D deficiency (defined as lower than 15 ng/mL) was seen in 38% of the infants and in 23% of the mothers.

Low Vitamin D and Childhood Disease

Vitamin D is a hormone that the body makes when exposed to direct sunlight. Belderbos and colleagues found that infants born in July had the highest vitamin D levels, while those born in December had the lowest levels.

RSV isn't the only problem for kids with low vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency -- levels below 12 ng/mL -- causes the soft, weak bones of rickets. Rickets was common in the days before vitamin D was added to milk.

Baby's First Year Newsletter

Because every week matters, get expert advice and facts on what to expect in your baby's first year.

Today on WebMD

mother on phone holding baby
When you should call 911.
parents and baby
Unexpected ways your life will change.
baby acne
What’s normal – and what’s not.
baby asleep on moms shoulder
Help your baby get the sleep he needs.

mother holding baby at night
mother with sick child
Chinese mother breast feeding newborn baby girl
Track Your Babys Vaccines
Baby Napping 10 Dos And Donts
Woman holding feet up to camera
Father kissing newborn baby
baby gear slideshow