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COVID-19 and Vitamin D

Public Health England re-issued its advice on Vitamin D supplementation to the public on 21st April 2020, via the website which can be found by clicking this link.

In essence, they have extended the “at risk” groups, ie those who should be taking a 10mcg (400 international units, or IU) Vitamin D supplement all year round - not just the winter months - to everyone because of the current lock-down restrictions resulting in everyone spending more time indoors.

Here are some Q and A’s that address some of the issues that are being raised at present, answered by Steve Simbler, one of our pharmacists.

Q: Is there any possibility however that people are getting more exposure to Vitamin D as they are getting out in the middle of the day to get their daily exercise?

A: There's every chance that “outdoor junkies” are getting as much or more exposure to UV compared to usual, but I know from conversations with friends, colleagues and relatives there is a large number of people who are just plain frightened to go out at all, and so are not taking advantage of a daily exercise allowance. In addition, people who might normally spend more time outdoors are having to self-isolate, usually indoors, because other family members have displayed symptoms of Coronavirus.

In addition, there are those considered "vulnerable" who have been written to by the government and who have been advised not to go out at all, others who live in inner city high rise blocks, don't have their own gardens and don't have such easy access to open land or parks. This can result in a vicious cycle in that many are suffering low mood or depression exacerbated by the current COVID-19 threat, and not getting out and topping up their Vitamin D are likely to end up suffering worse symptoms brought about by insufficient Vitamin D.

Furthermore, not everyone is as fortunate in having enjoyed as much sunshine of late as those of us in the south-east of the UK, and so will have had less opportunity to get the benefit of the UVB rays that enable our bodies to produce sufficient Vitamin D in our skin, so bearing in mind Vitamin D's good safety profile, I strongly doubt there is any downside to taking 10mcg (400 IU) a day even through the summer.

An interesting corollary to this is that in my travels and talks with GPs, I find that in almost every case, despite the official recommendation being a daily dose of 400 IU, most GPs themselves are taking 1000 IU per day. This is generally quite safe for most people, but it is worth checking with your local pharmacist if you are taking any regular medication, or have any underlying conditions.

Q: Is there evidence to support the view that this should be the case all year round anyway?