Many adults reach for Emergen-C at the first sign of a cold. While that’s fine for adults, when you see cold symptoms coming on for a child, you shouldn’t give your child under 15 Emergen-C or a similar supplement.
Emergen-C is a high dose of Vitamins C, B-6 and B-12 that’s formulated for adults. Each dosage contains 1,000 mg of Vitamin C (about 16 times the USDA recommended daily value). While this is well within safe dosage for an adult, the upper intake level for children is considerably less: Children aged 1- to 3-years old should only consume 400 mg Vitamin C and those 4- to 8-years-old should consume no more than 650 mg.
Adult doses of Vitamin C won’t have severe adverse affects, but they can cause upset stomach in children. In both children and adults, absorption of Vitamin C is best at low dosages: You (and your child) can absorb up to 90 percent of a moderate dosage, while up to 50 percent of a dose higher than 1,000 mg is not absorbed.
Although wasteful, unabsorbed Vitamin C is typically not dangerous. Although excessive levels of the vitamin, which is acidic, can cause upset stomach, unused Vitamin C is passed in urine.
Instead of giving your child Emergen-C or a similar supplement, seek to provide enough Vitamin C though a balanced diet. Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit, bell peppers, strawberries and cantaloupe are all rich in Vitamin C. If you’re concerned your child isn’t receiving enough Vitamin C in her diet, supplement it with a kids’ vitamin that contains is.
And the idea of beating back a cold with big doses of Vitamin C? It’s mostly a myth. Treating the common cold with Vitamin C reduces the length of a cold about 14 percent in children and 8 percent in adults.