Is It Ever Safe for Children to Take Adult Multivitamins?

If you take a daily multivitamin, it could be tempting to share the supplement with your children. However, having your kids stick with their own Flintstones chewables may be the best bet.

Children multivitamins are tailored to your kids' recommended nutrient intakes to prevent an overdose. (Image: SeventyFour/iStock/GettyImages)

Choosing the Right Multivitamin Supplement

Each vitamin and mineral has a Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) tailored to children, adults and seniors. So if you're going to supplement your child's diet, it's imperative to choose a multivitamin designed for their needs. Since children don't have the same nutritional needs as adults, it's best to avoid giving them adult multis.

"As for which one is best? That's the one your kids will actually take!" says Tanya Altmann, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and author of What to Feed Your Baby: A Pediatrician's Guide to the 11 Essential Foods to Guarantee Veggie-Loving, No-Fuss, Healthy-Eating Kids, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "It's not worth a fight, and vitamins that sit on the cabinet shelf don't help anyone."

There are a few things to keep in mind, though. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness. If you're looking for additional information about a specific product, reach out to the manufacturer or distributor.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), which is powered by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), points out that federal regulations for dietary supplements are less strict than those for prescription and over-the-counter drugs. According to their latest statistics, nearly 4,600 children are rushed to the emergency room each year due to ingestion or overdose from dietary supplements — where most children took a vitamin or mineral without supervision.

"It's important to keep all supplements stored high out of a young child's reach to avoid any accidental overdose or ingestion," adds Altmann.

Does Your Child Even Need a Multivitamin?

Contrary to popular belief, being a picky eater doesn't automatically indicate that a child has nutritional deficiencies. A number of child-approved foods, like milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals, are fortified with vital nutrients, such as B vitamins (which helps the body form red blood cells) and calcium (which helps build and maintain strong teeth and bones), so your little one may be taking in more vitamins and minerals than you realize, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Children (as well as adults) can obtain all of the essential vitamins and minerals by eating a well-balanced diet, according to the AAP. Plus, consuming megadoses of certain vitamins, such as A, C and D, can be toxic to a child's body, resulting in nausea, rashes and/or headaches, the AAP states. In some cases, overdosing on supplements might lead to more severe effects. For example, large servings of iron could cause long-term liver or intestinal issues, according to MedlinePlus.

"While it's best to get your vitamins through real food and good nutrition, there are certain vitamins that some kids just can't seem to get enough of and a supplement may be in order," Altmann says.

Many children may benefit from taking a supplement with vitamin D, where the RDA is 400 IU for babies under age 1 and 600 IU for children over age 1, says Altmann. Children who follow either a vegetarian or vegan diet may require certain nutrients missing from their meals, including zinc, calcium, iron and vitamin B 12, says Altmann. And according to the Mayo Clinic, a multivitamin could be necessary if a child has food allergies, certain chronic conditions or has a delay in physical and developmental growth.

"A good way to ensure they're getting everything their body needs is by taking a daily children's multivitamin," says Altmann. However, she stresses the importance of speaking with your child's pediatrician and asking for a blood test before giving him or her a multivitamin or any dietary supplement. "It's easy to overdose a young child," she states. Certain vitamins and minerals can interact with prescription medications, as well.

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