Maternal vit D and fish oil reduce croup: Study

Filip Vukasin

15/09/2022 4:16:20 PM

Use of the supplements during pregnancy can reduce the likelihood of children under three developing the infection by up to 40%.

Pregnant person taking capsules
The use of high-dose vitamin D or fish oil during pregnancy could be a cost-effective approach to improving young children’s health, new research suggests.

Children under the age of three are 38% less likely to develop croup if their mothers took fish oil while pregnant, a new study suggests.
The Danish research, which involved 736 pregnant women, also showed the use of high-dose vitamin D can result in a 40% lower chance of children developing the infection.
The mothers were divided into four groups to test the effectiveness of both supplements together and separately:

  • high-dose vitamin D (2800IU) and fish oil
  • high-dose vitamin D and olive oil
  • standard-dose vitamin D (400IU) and fish oil
  • standard-dose vitamin D and olive oil.
Children whose mothers took fish oil had an 11% risk of croup, compared to 17% in the group taking olive oil, while those whose mothers took high-dose vitamin D had an 11% risk of croup, compared to 18% in those taking standard-dose vitamin D.
However, there was no evidence of an additive effect or interaction between supplements when taking both fish oil and high-dose vitamin D.
Dr Nicklas Brustad, a clinician and postdoctoral researcher working on the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC), presented the findings at last week’s European Respiratory Society International Congress.
‘Our findings suggest that vitamin D and fish oil could be beneficial against childhood croup in sufficiently high doses,’ he said.
‘These are relatively cheap supplements meaning that this could be a very cost-effective approach to improving young children’s health.
‘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.
‘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.’
Croup is primarily caused by parainfluenza, but other causative agents include respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and adenovirus.
All women took the supplements daily from the 24th week of pregnancy until one-week postpartum and children were monitored until the age of three.
Dr James Best, Chair of RACGP Specific Interests Child and Young People’s Health, told newsGP the results are interesting but need to be looked at in the context of other studies.
‘If helpful, it would be a safe and straightforward way of reducing croup, and could be discussed at the same time as pertussis and influenza vaccination in pregnancy,’ he said.
The randomised controlled trial is the first study of its kind to investigate a link between vitamin D and fish oil on croup.
Apart from vaccination for influenza, currently there are no other preventive treatments, although an RSV vaccine trial in toddlers is underway in Australia.
‘This year, croup has increased with the reintroduction of viruses into the community since lockdowns and other health measures ended, and RSV has particularly come back with a vengeance,’ Dr Best said.
‘If the RSV vaccine was found to be effective, it would be a major breakthrough.’
The research team at COPSAC have already investigated other potential benefits of vitamin D and fish oil during pregnancy, including its effects on bone development, the central nervous system, body composition and asthma.
They will continue to follow the children in the study and plan to investigate why some children are more prone to infections in childhood than others.
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croup fish oil parainfluenza pregnancy vitamin D

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