As an essential nutrient and a trace mineral, zinc supports many key body functions, including, maintaining the health of cells, wound healing and immune function
Both too little zinc and too much zinc can cause health problems
Daily zinc requirements depend on age and life stage, but most children need between 2-11 mg of zinc every day
The best way to get enough zinc is by eating foods rich in zinc, including shellfish, red meat, poultry, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy products, and some fortified foods
Did you know that zinc is found throughout your body, from the eyes, brain, and pancreas to the kidneys, liver, and adrenal glands? Children need important vitamins and minerals—including zinc—every day to help fuel their normal growth and development. In fact, zinc benefits well-being in many ways by supporting a variety of key body processes, including cell growth and division, immunity, and wound healing.
Fortunately, the body doesn’t require a lot of zinc every day to function properly, which is why it’s called a trace mineral. But since the body doesn’t store zinc, it needs to be replenished with this vital mineral, preferably by eating a variety of healthy foods every day. But kids can be notoriously picky eaters, so parents might worry if their children get an adequate zinc intake.
You might be wondering, “How much zinc can a child take?” and if zinc is even safe for kids. Read on to learn more about the proper daily zinc dosage for kids.
What Are the Benefits of Zinc?
Because zinc plays an important role in aiding cell growth and division, it’s important to get enough zinc during times of rapid growth (think pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence). In fact, this vital nutrient delivers many health benefits throughout the body. Zinc’s antioxidant properties help protect the body’s cells from free radical damage
Is Zinc Safe For Children?
For starters, know that zinc is safe for children—as long as it’s taken in the recommended amounts. (More on that in a bit.) Zinc is an essential mineral for the body, which means the body can't produce zinc on its own, so you need to get it through food or supplements. The good news? Zinc is found in many foods, such as shellfish (especially oysters), red meat, poultry, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy products, and some fortified foods.
Both too little zinc and too much zinc can cause problems.
Too little zinc: Zinc deficiency is rare for most Americans. However, mild zinc deficiency does occur among certain groups of people, including premature and low-birth-weight infants, older breastfed babies with inadequate intake of zinc-rich complementary foods, children, and adolescents, pregnant and breast-feeding women (especially teens), and vegetarians.
Too much zinc: If children get excess zinc, it could also cause problems, too. It’s important to talk with a health professional to make sure you are taking the correct zinc dosage.
How Much Zinc Can a Child Take?
When they’re little, babies absorb the zinc they need from mom’s breastmilk, which contains a zinc-binding enzyme that helps little ones absorb zinc through the intestine. A mother’s breast milk provides adequate zinc (2 mg a day) for the first 4-6 months of the infant’s life. However, once babies reach ages 7 to 12 months old, breastmilk doesn't provide enough zinc, since babies this age need 3 mg a day. Because of this, babies older than six months should eat age-appropriate foods that contain zinc.
And when it comes to teenagers, studies show that two in three adolescent boys and three in four teenage girls don’t meet the recommended dietary allowance (15 mg/day for boys, 12 mg/day for girls).
So, how much zinc should a child take?
Health experts say that the amount of zinc you need (measured in milligrams) every day depends on your age and life stage, with the following recommendations.
Infants 0 to 6 months
Infants 7-12 months
Children 1-3 years
Children 4-8 years
Children 9-13 years
Adolescents 14-18 years
Pregnant teens 18 years and younger
Breastfeeding teens 18 years and younger
If you’re concerned about your child’s zinc status, talk to his or her pediatrician, who might order a blood test to check zinc levels. If your child is diagnosed with low zinc levels or a zinc deficiency, the pediatrician might prescribe zinc supplementation to get extra zinc into your child until levels return to normal. Zinc supplements come in two main formats: oral zinc (such as tablets and lozenges) and intranasal zinc (such as zinc nasal sprays). Depending on the type of supplemental zinc, they might contain various types of zinc listed in the ingredients, such zinc acetate, zinc citrate, zinc gluconate, zinc picolinate, or zinc sulfate.
Although oral zinc is considered safe with few adverse effects when taken in recommended dosages, it can interact with certain medications such as antibiotics and penicillamine (a rheumatoid arthritis treatment).
The Bottom Line
Zinc is an essential nutrient and a trace mineral that supports many key body functions, including (use language above: cell health or cell growth and division, immune health and wound healing). If your child gets either too little zinc or too much zinc, this deficiency or excess can cause health problems. How much zinc can kids take every day depends on age and life stage, but most children need between 2-11 mg of zinc every day. (Pregnant and breastfeeding teens need a bit more zinc every day.)
As always, the best source of nutrients—including zinc—is through healthy foods. Zinc-containing foods include shellfish (especially oysters), red meat, poultry, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy products, and some fortified foods. Zinc supplements come in a variety of forms, with oral zinc supplements (such as zinc tablets and lozenges). Consult with your child’s health provider to see if kids vitamins like our Kids First Elderberry with Vitamin C and Zinc is right for your child.
Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.
Lisa Beach is a seasoned journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, Parents, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Optimum Wellness, and dozens more. She also writes for a variety of health/wellness-focused brands. Check out her writer’s website at www.LisaBeachWrites.com.
Lynn is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) and is a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. She has over 20 years of experience in integrative and functional nutrition and has given lectures to health professionals and consumers on nutrition, dietary supplements and related health issues. Lynn frequently conducts employee trainings on various nutrition topics in addition to educating retail partners on vitamins, minerals and supplements. Lynn has previous clinical dietitian expertise in both acute and long-term care, as well as nutrition counseling for weight management, diabetes, and sports nutrition. Lynn earned a bachelor’s of science in Nutrition with a minor in Kinesiology/Exercise Science from The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a M.S. degree in Human Nutrition from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Lynn is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Dietitians in Functional Medicine, and holds a certification in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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