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Toxicity of Retinol to Children

Toxicity of Retinol to Children Toxicity of Retinol to Children


Retinol, or vitamin A, is an important vitamin in the health maintenance of vision, bone growth and cell development. Vitamin A is also important in the regulation of the immune system, helping the body prevent and fight off infections. Retinol is an important component in the production of pigments in the retina, helping develop low light and color vision. Children taking too much vitamin A can develop acute or chronic toxicity.

Sources of Retinol

Animal products, like whole eggs and milk, are good dietary sources of retinol for children. Fortified milk, dairy products and breakfast cereals are also good sources of vitamin A. Plant sources of retinol include carrots, spinach, peas and apricots. But the main source of excess vitamin A causing toxicity is dietary supplements. Children can have vitamin A toxicity, or hypervitaminosis A, from the acute or chronic ingestion of vitamin A-containing supplements.

Acute Toxicity

Acute retinol toxicity occurs when a child takes a large amount of vitamin A at once or over a short period of time. Acute vitamin A toxicity can cause bone aches and softening of bones, especially the skull bones, a condition called craniotabes; blurry or double vision; and a peeling rash. Another symptom is headache, as a result of increased intracranial pressure, or an increase in the fluid pressure inside the brain.

Chronic Toxicity

Chronic toxicity in children results from taking large amount of vitamin A over a long time. This causes coarse hair, loss of eyebrow hair; cracked mouth and lips, and a roughening of the skin. Children with chronic toxicity can also develop joint achiness, delayed growth, and inflammation of the liver and the spleen. Another complication is pseudotumor cerebri, which is an increase in the pressure of the brain inside the skull, and cerebral edema, or brain swelling.


Further complications of retinol toxicity include weakness due to demineralization of bones, also known as osteoporosis. Anemia and coagulation problems can result from vitamin A toxicity. Children can develop liver toxicity, which can predispose to bleeding abnormalities, as the liver is an important organ in the production of clotting proteins. Because of its role in the immune system, excess vitamin A can result in neutropenia, a deficiency in the cells in charge of fighting off bacterial infections.

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