Children need to get enough zinc to grow and develop properly. The nutrient helps the body make proteins and DNA, and also helps the immune system fight off bacteria and viruses. While most children in the United States can get enough zinc through diet alone, supplementation may prove useful in some circumstances. Parents who give zinc supplements to their children should make sure the dosage is appropriate.
Recommended Dietary Allowance
The minimum amount of zinc children need depends on their age. The recommended dietary allowance, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements, children between the ages of 4 to 8 should get at least 5 milligrams, while children between the ages of 9 and 13 should get at least 9 milligrams of zinc. The recommended dietary allowance of teenagers depends on gender. Teenage boys between the ages of 14 and 18 should get at least 11 milligrams of zinc each day, while teenage girls the same age need only 9 milligrams of zinc a day.
Getting Too Much
It is possible for children to get too much zinc. Symptoms of a zinc overdose include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and headaches. Getting too much zinc on a regular basis may cause low copper levels in the body, a reduced immunity and low levels of the “good” cholesterol. Because of this, parents should make sure their children do not exceed the tolerable upper intake levels established by the Institute of Medicine.
Tolerable Upper Intake Levels
The best sources of vitamins and minerals for your child is a daily balanced diet. If you supplement your child's diet with a multivitamin, make sure you follow the exact dosage and keep them in a safe place that he can't reach. Too much zinc or other nutrients can be harmful. Children between the ages of 1 and 3 should not get more than 7 milligrams of zinc. The tolerable upper intake level is 12 milligrams for children between the ages of 4 and 8 and 23 milligrams for children between 9- and 13-years-old.
While most parents can use the RDA and tolerable upper intake level amounts when deciding how much zinc their children should get, some special situations may warrant a different amount. Children who have digestive disorders, sickle cell disease and those diagnosed with a zinc deficiency may need more zinc than others. Children who are vegetarians and older infants who are exclusively breast-fed also are at a greater risk of a zinc deficiency. If you are unsure if your child’s medical condition or lifestyle requires a higher dose of zinc, contact your doctor or pediatrician.
Zinc supplements may negatively interact with certain medications or other supplements. Quinolone or tetracycline antibiotics, penicillamine, chlorthalidone and hydrochlorothiazide are a few medications known to negatively interact with zinc supplements. Always let your child’s doctor or pediatrician know about the other supplements or medications your child takes before giving a zinc supplement to your child.