Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are a nutritious addition to your child's diet because they support heart and brain health. Chances are, however, that your 8-year-old isn't getting enough of this beneficial nutrient, unless she's willing to eat at least one serving of fatty fish, such as salmon or sardines, each week. Fish oil supplements are a good alternative, but it's necessary to know how much your child needs before giving them to her.
How Much Do Kids Need?
Healthy 8-year-olds should have about 0.9 grams of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet each day, notes the DHA/EPA Omega-3 Institute. Fish oil is a nutritious source of omega-3s, and is an easy way to ensure that your child is getting plenty of this essential nutrient. The MedlinePlus website notes that children with certain health problems might need different doses of fish oil, which is used as a treatment in certain cases. For example, fish oil can be used for children with asthma or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. If this describes your 8-year-old, follow his doctor's dosing instructions exactly.
Benefits of Fish Oil
Fish oil helps lower bad cholesterol and aids in keeping arteries healthy, according to William Sears, a well-known pediatrician and author of "The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood." Children who take fish oil have healthier skin and are less prone to constipation, notes Sears. Fish oil is also necessary for proper brain and eye development, notes Keli Hawthorne, a dietitian writing for the BabyCenter website.
Incorporating Fish Oil Into Your Child's Diet
It's best that your 8-year-old gets his nutrients from actual food, advises Hawthorne, but fish oil supplements are a good alternative if your child doesn't enjoy the taste of fish. If your child willingly eats a full serving of fatty fish each week, he probably doesn't need a supplement. Many children have a hard time swallowing a fish oil supplement, so Dr. Sears recommends pricking the pill with a pin and squeezing the oil into foods such as a smoothie. Fruit-flavored fish oil supplements are also available at many health food stores, and these are a good alternative if your child absolutely can't stand the fishy taste of regular fish oil supplements.
Cautions and Risks
Talk to your child's pediatrician before adding fish oil supplements to his daily routine. Your child's doctor will recommend an appropriate supplement, as well as the best dose, which is important because too much fish oil can be dangerous. For example, large amounts of fish oil can increase the risk of stroke, according to the MedlinePlus website. Some fish oil supplements can contain mercury, depending on what type of fish the oil is from. Mercury can cause neurological disorders in growing children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Ask your child's doctor to recommend a fish oil supplement made from low-mercury fish to avoid this potential risk.