Chronic Cough: Linked to Low Vitamin D in Adults and Children

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Melissa Peterson ● 2 min read

The prevalence of respiratory tract infections (RTIs) and chronic cough in children is widespread and accounts for a large number of paediatrician visits each year. In a 2016 prospective observational study, low serum vitamin D levels were linked with an increased frequency in these conditions, while supplementation reduced the symptoms and frequency by over 50%.[1]

Infants aged 6-86 months were included in this one-year study. Researchers compared the serum vitamin D levels of 98 children with recurrent RTIs, 101 children with chronic cough and 124 healthy symptom-free children.

The children in the RTI and chronic cough groups had deficient mean serum vitamin D levels (11.9ng/mL or 29.7nmol/L and 13.7ng/mL or 34nmol/L, respectively). Whereas, the control group had normal mean levels of 31.9mg/mL (79nmol/L). From their analysis, the researchers showed vitamin D deficiency was associated with increased RTI and chronic cough frequency.

Serum vitamin D levels above 20mg/mL (49nmol/L) were classed as normal, 15-20mg/mL (37-49nml/L) as insufficient, below 15ng/mL (37nmol/L) as deficient and below 5ng/mL (12.5nmol/L) as severely deficient.

Both treatment groups with serum levels lower than 15ng/mL (37nmol/L) were then given 5000IU of vitamin D3 per day for 3 months. Those with levels higher than this received 400IU per day.
At the six-month follow up, the frequency and symptoms in the RTI group decreased by 67.3%; in the chronic cough group there was a 58.4% reduction.

The authors concluded ‘significantly low serum 25(OH)D levels were found in children with RTI and chronic cough. Co-administration of supplementary vitamin D of 5000IU/day for 3 months, together with conventional treatments, may be appropriate in the prophylaxis of RTI and chronic cough. The simple intervention of vitamin D supplementation appears promising in helping to prevent infections and chronic cough in children.’[1]

This effect is not only seen in children, with a recent study analysis showing vitamin D supplementation of 4000IU per day reduced RTI recurrences in susceptible adults, providing a safe and inexpensive therapy. Interestingly, the benefits were seen after 3 months of supplementation, which corresponded with increased serum vitamin D levels, ‘thus strengthening a relationship between 25-OH vitamin D levels and RTIs.’[2]


  1. Ozdemir B, Koksal BT, Karakas NM, et al. Serum vitamin D levels in children with recurrent respiratory infections and chronic cough. Indian J Pediatr 2016 Jan [Epub ahead of print] [Full Text
  2. Bergman P, Norlin AC, Hansen S, et al. Vitamin D supplementation to patients with frequent respiratory tract infections: a post hoc analysis of a randomized and placebo-controlled trial. BMC Res Notes 2015;8:391. [Full Text


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Melissa Peterson has been a writer and educator in the health and medical science fields for over 15 years. Naturopathically trained, Melissa also has postgraduate qualifications in literature research and reviewing. Her business, Words On Therapy, provides many services to industry including technical articles, white papers, blogs, SEO content, copywriting and research collation.