So far this week Sasa Jovenic has examined what vitamin D is and the signs of deficiency. Find out today who is most at risk.

Typical patients

According to the Department of Health (DH), groups of the population at risk of not getting enough vitamin D are all pregnant and breastfeeding women; babies and young children under the age of five; older people aged 65 years and over; people who are not exposed to much sun – such as people who cover up their skin when outdoors, or those who are housebound or confined indoors for long periods; and people who have darker skin, such as those of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin.

There are a number of reasons why these groups can become deficient, according to GP Dr Tom Margham: “We get our vitamin D first and foremost from sunlight hitting the skin, but in the UK the sun is only strong enough to kick off vitamin D production in the summer months, so although we build up a small surplus over the summer most of us are probably a bit vitamin D deficient in the winter.

“Add to that the fact that vitamin D is only found in small amounts in food – such as eggs, oily fish and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals – and it becomes clear why taking supplements is considered a good idea for ‘at risk’ groups.

“In addition, getting 15 minutes sun exposure on the arms and face on sunny days through the summer is thought to be enough for white-skinned people to produce vitamin D – someone with darker skin would probably need double that amount – but many people struggle to balance this advice with recommendations to avoid sunbathing and use strong sun protection factor on children and adults to prevent skin cancer.”

On the plus side, many of these groups are regular customers of community pharmacy, giving you and your staff plenty of opportunity to reach out to them with advice and help.

Are you unsure what the guidelines are for patients with vitamin D deficiency? Join us tomorrow to find out more.