Can sunshine help prevent pneumonia?

A link between vitamin D deficiency and pneumonia is being investigated in two studies by Indonesian and Australian scientists in Indonesia.

They’re tracking the incidence and severity of respiratory tract infections in early childhood,including the common cold, asthma,pneumonia, and bronchiolitis, in hospitals and the community, in the hope of providing more information for treatment and management for respiratory diseases.

Pneumonia is the number one killer of children under five in the country, and around six million young Indonesians suffer from it each year, according to a 2008 study.

This collaboration is going to update those 2008 figures, and hopefully lower them—while trying to find the causes of it and other respiratory tract infections. It’s easy to assume people living in such a sunny country would have adequate levels of vitamin D, which forms naturally when the skin is exposed to sunlight, or is obtained in the diet.

“There are several lifestyle reasons why this may not happen,” says project coordinator Dr Vicka Oktaria of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, and the University of Melbourne.

“Foods high in vitamin D don’t tend to be part of the daily diet in Indonesia. And, although the benefits of breast feeding children for the first six months are huge, breast milk is a poor resource for vitamin D. So we may need to consider some form of supplementation.”

Credit for banner image: Noor Qodri H.