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Vitamin D deficiency and sickle cell disease


Low levels of vitamin D, called vitamin D deficiency, are a very common problem in all age groups. People with sickle cell disease are at high risk for low levels of vitamin D, which can cause chronic pain, osteoporosis, bone fractures, and muscle weakness. In addition, not having enough vitamin D causes bones to grow poorly, leading to shorter height than expected. Also, some people with sickle cell disease who are treated for vitamin D deficiency may have less pain than those who are not treated.

Vitamin D is found in certain foods. Milk, fish, orange juice, cereal, yogurt, and cheese products may say on the label “Vitamin D fortified.” Vitamin D is also produced through sunlight. However, you should be careful to avoid sunburn from prolonged exposure to the sun. You may also give your child supplements to maintain a normal level of vitamin D.

Recommended supplements

Infants younger than 1 year of age:

Formula fed infants: Baby formula with Vitamin D

Breast fed infants: 400 IU Vitamin D per day by mouth

Children older than age 1 year:

Multivitamin containing 600 IU Vitamin D per day by mouth

What is vitamin D deficiency?

One time each year, the St. Jude staff will check your child for vitamin D deficiency using a blood test measurement of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Levels less than 30 ng/mL are below normal. If this is found, your provider will prescribe an oral vitamin D supplement for your child. 

Treatment by mouth for children who do not have enough vitamin D in their blood

First treatment

Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) 2,000 IU daily for 6 weeks  OR

Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) 50,000 IU one time per week for 6 weeks

Maintenance treatment

Infants younger than 1 year of age:

Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) or Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) 400–1,000 IU daily

Children 1–18 years of age:

Ergocalciferol (vitamin D3) or Cholecalciferol (vitamin D2) 600–1,000 IU daily 


If you have questions about vitamin D and sickle cell disease, please talk to your child’s doctor, pharmacist, or nurse. If you are inside the hospital, dial 0. In the local area, call 901-595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 when the call connects. 


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).