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Vitamin D for secondary prevention of acute wheeze attacks in preschool and school-age children
  1. Christos Stefanidis1,2,
  2. Adrian R Martineau1,2,
  3. Chinedu Nwokoro1,
  4. Christopher J Griffiths1,2,
  5. Andrew Bush1,3
  1. 1 Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research, Blizard Institute, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
  2. 2 Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
  3. 3 Royal Brompton Hospital, Biomedical Research Unit at the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, Imperial College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Christos Stefanidis; c.stefanidis{at}


Introduction Vitamin D is best known for its role in bone health; however, the discovery of the vitamin D receptor and the expression of the gene encoding the vitamin D 1α-hydroxylase (CYP27B1) enzyme in a wide variety of tissues including immune cells and respiratory epithelium has led to the discovery of potential roles for vitamin D in the prevention of acute wheeze.

Methods We review here the literature concerning the relationships between circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentration and secondary prevention of acute wheeze attacks in preschool and school-age children.

Results Epidemiological data suggest that vitamin D insufficiency (25(OH)D <75 nmol/L) is highly prevalent in preschool and school-age children with wheeze. Preschool age children with a history of wheeze attacks and circulating 25(OH)D <75 nmol/L are at increased risk and frequency of future acute wheeze. However, no consistent association between low vitamin D status and risk of acute wheeze is reported in school-age children. Seven randomised controlled trials (RCTs) with relatively small sample sizes (30–430) and variable quality showed inconsistent results regarding the effect of oral vitamin D supplementation during childhood on the risk of asthma attacks, asthma symptom control, inhaled corticosteroid requirements, spirometry and unscheduled healthcare attendances for wheeze. A RCT showed that vitamin D supplementation had no effect on the frequency of unplanned healthcare attendances due to acute wheeze in 22 preschool children.

Discussion An evidence-based recommendation for the use of vitamin D as a preventive therapy for wheeze attacks cannot be made until results of further trials are available. The assessment of circulating 25(OH)D concentration and the optimisation of vitamin D status to prevent acute respiratory tract infections, and to maintain skeletal and general health in preschool and school-age children with acute wheeze is worthwhile in its own right, but whether this will reduce the risk of acute wheeze attacks is unclear.

  • vitamin D
  • children
  • acute wheeze secondary prevention
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D

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  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.