Many Melbournians are low in Vitamin D, which is important for strong bones and muscles. Being physically active outdoors helps us to make Vitamin D, but this is difficult during our cold and overcast winter season.
Some people are at increased risk of Vitamin D deficiency, particularly those with naturally dark skin and those who have low exposure to sunlight. Other risk factors include being elderly, overweight and not eating much fish or dairy.
Vitamin D plays an important part in keeping our immune system strong so if your levels are low, you may find yourself getting sick more often or have wounds that take a long time to heal. Being low in Vitamin D is associated with increased risk of autoimmune disease and is even associated with worse outcomes if you are infected with Covid-19, although more research is required in this area.
Vitamin D deficiency does not always have obvious symptoms but can cause bone and muscle pain. A wide range of other symptoms may occur such as fatigue and tiredness, depression or hair loss. There are many possible causes for some of these symptoms. Your Doctor can work with you to help determine what the cause may be in your case.
Always take care to protect your skin from the summer sun in order to reduce your risk of skin cancer. You can do this by using sun protective clothing, applying SPF 30 sunscreen 20 minutes before going outdoors, wearing a hat and sunglasses and finding some shade. During the winter months from May to mid-August, when the UV level is forecast to be less than 3, sun protection is not recommended unless you work outdoors, are outside for extended periods or are near highly reflective surfaces like snow.
If you are concerned you may be low in Vitamin D, speak to your Doctor about how this can be managed. In the meantime, you can increase your sun exposure, being sure to adhere to sun protection guidelines during the summer months and eat more Vitamin D rich foods such as salmon or tuna.