Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) remain among of the most important causes of morbidity and mortality among children. Several studies have associated vitamin D deficiency with an increased risk of RTIs, and vitamin D supplementation has been proposed as a possible preventive measure against RTIs in children. The main aim of this review is to summarize the current evidence from the literature about the link between vitamin D and RTIs in children.
Several recent studies have shown that vitamin D has different immunomodulatory properties associated with the risk of RTIs in childhood. In this regard, it is very important to understand the definition of deficiency and insufficiency of vitamin D and when and how to treat this condition. Unfortunately, there is no consensus, although a level of at least 10 ng/mL 25-hydroxycholecalciferol (25[OH]D) is thought to be necessary to promote bone mineralization and calcium homeostasis, and a concentration between 20 ng/mL and 50 ng/mL is considered adequate to provide an immunomodulatory effect. Available data support a role for vitamin D deficiency in the risk of pediatric tuberculosis, recurrent acute otitis media, and severe bronchiolitis, whereas further studies are needed to confirm an association in children with recurrent pharyngotonsillitis, acute rhinosinusitis and community-acquired pneumonia.
Maintenance of adequate vitamin D status may be an effective and inexpensive prophylactic method against some RTIs, but the supplementation regimen has not been clearly defined. Further clinical trials are needed to determine the 25(OH)D concentrations associated with an increased risk of RTIs and optimal vitamin D supplementation regimen according to the type of RTI while also taking into consideration vitamin D receptor polymorphisms.