(Primary Health Care)
Vitamin A Deficiency (Part 1)
What is Vitamin A Deficiency?
Vitamins are present in food. There are lots of
different types of vitamins and the body needs them if it is to grow
and work properly. Vitamin A is a very important one. Some foods
have a lot of Vitamin A in them, whilst others don’t. If
someone’s body does not have enough Vitamin A, we say that they
are Vitamin A deficient. This happens if the person doesn’t eat
enough of the foods with lots of Vitamin A, which the body needs.
This is most likely to happen in children, because their bodies are
Why is Vitamin A deficiency dangerous?
Vitamin A deficiency is dangerous because it
makes children’s bodies less able to fight off illnesses, such as
diarrhoea and measles. Children with Vitamin A deficiency are more
likely to become ill if they get one of the three most common
illnesses and it may even kill the child.
It is possible to be Vitamin A deficient
without knowing it, so it is very important that everyone,
especially children, eat plenty of the foods which contain a lot of
Vitamin A. Severe Vitamin A deficiency can damage eyes and can cause
permanent blindness if the child’s body has very little Vitamin A.
What foods contain a lot of Vitamin A?
Breast milk contains lots of Vitamin A.
Although children become too old to receive milk from their mother
it is essential that they appreciate the advantages such a natural
food will give their younger brothers and sisters. Young girls, who
will one day, become mothers’ need to know the benefits of feeding
their children naturally. It is best for any child if they can
receive milk from their mother for at least the first six to nine
months of the life.
ALL dark green leaves contain Vitamin A, so do
most yellow, orange or red fruits and vegetables. So, try to feed
young children as much:
red palm oil
yellow sweet potatoes
the yolk of eggs
ALL of these contain good supplies of Vitamin
A. An exercise that helps young people remember where they can get
Vitamin A is to ask them to draw and name the fruits and vegetables
they should eat.
How do we know if we have Vitamin A deficiency?
Even when we are in a darkened room most of us
can see something. A person suffering from NIGHT BLINDNESS will not
be able to see anything. They will bump into things and will not be
able to see even an essential thing such as a plate of food.
The same will happen at night, when most people
can see enough to walk around by the light of the moon and the
stars, but the night blind child will not be able to see where they
are going. Vitamin A deficiency is not always bad enough to cause
night blindness and some children have no easy way of knowing that
they have night blindness. An example of this would be a very young
child who is not yet able to walk. They have what is known as
‘hidden vitamin A deficiency’. They are still more likely to
become ill from common illnesses such as diarrhoea, a cough or a
fever. They need to eat more food with lots of vitamin A and might
be helped by being given tablets with vitamin A in them.
Sometimes when a health visitor visits a
village or community to see whether s lot of people have ‘hidden
vitamin A deficiency’ they will need to test their blood to see
how much vitamin A is in it does this. If a lot of children have
‘hidden vitamin A deficiency’, then the health worker will give
all the children medicines with vitamin A in them every 4 to 6
months and tell them to eat more foods with vitamin A in them.
What can we do to stop Vitamin A deficiency?
What do you do if you have limited supplies of
food with Vitamin A in it?
What can we do for people with night blindness?
Some games to play to encourage Vitamin A
awareness amongst the young.