Pregnancy: The supplements found to lower the risk of croup in babies

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Dr Nicklas Brustad is a clinician and postdoctoral researcher working on the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC) at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.

The study Dr Brustad undertook was into the impact of supplements on pregnant women and whether some supplements could reduce the likelihood of the condition occurring. The study, which included 736 pregnant women, looked at the impact of vitamin D, fish oil, and olive oil supplements.

What was found was that both fish oil and vitamin D reduced the risk of a child experiencing croup. Overall, it was found children whose mother’s took fish oil supplements had an 11 percent risk of croup compared to 17 percent for those whose mothers had olive oil.

Furthermore, those children whose mothers took high dose vitamin D all had an 11 percent risk of croup compared to 18 percent for those who took a standard dose. In this experiment, a high dose of vitamin D was 2800 units while a normal dose was 400 units a day.

The study shows the importance and potential influence of supplements such as fish oil and vitamin D on the immune systems of both mother and child.

Alongside this, Dr Brustad feels this development is important given the comparative lack of treatment for croup currently available.

Speaking about the study, Dr Brustad said: “There is currently no vaccine against the pathogen that causes this disease.

“Therefore, other preventive strategies are needed, and measures initiated during pregnancy might be important since croup occurs in babies and young children. For such purpose, there is evidence that both vitamin D and fish oil could have an influence on the immune system.”

Dr Brustad added: “Our findings suggest that vitamin D and fish oil could be beneficial against childhood croup in sufficiently high doses. These are relatively cheap supplements meaning that this could be a very cost-effective approach to improving young children’s health.

“We are not sure of the exact mechanisms behind the beneficial effects of vitamin D and fish oil, but it could be that they can stimulate the immune system to help babies and young children clear infections more effectively.”

As well as investigating how vitamin D and fish oil can reduce the risk of croup in children, the team from Copenhagen University Hospital have also looked at how the supplements can improve bone development, strengthen the central nervous system, and reduce the risk of asthma.

These studies too have shown the importance of supplementation with regard to the development of children in the womb.

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Meanwhile, the University of Heidelberg’s Professor Rory Morty said of the study: “We know that lung health in babies and young children can be influenced during pregnancy. For example, babies whose mothers smoke tend to have worse lung health.

“We are increasingly seeing that elements of a mother’s diet can also help or hinder a baby’s lung development. This research suggests that taking vitamin D and fish oil supplements during pregnancy could have benefits for babies and young children.

“We would like to see further research in this area to support these findings as this could lead to new recommendations for supplementation during pregnancy. Pregnant women should always speak to their doctor before taking supplements.”

The study illustrates how influential supplements can be, but it is crucial subsequent research is undertaken in order for more evidence to be gathered.

Meanwhile, it is also important for people to be aware of the symptoms of croup so children and babies with the condition can be adequately attended to.

Symptoms of the condition include:
• A barking cough
• A hoarse voice
• Difficulty breathing
• A rasping sound when breathing in.

The NHS add that children “will usually have cold-like symptoms to begin with, such as a temperature, runny nose, and cough” alongside the other signs associated with the condition.

Although a worrying time for a parent, croup is a condition which typically gets better within around 48 hours of developing.

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