Investigating Vitamin D Supplementation for Treating Acute Asthma in Preschool Children

A Canada-wide multicentre study of paediatric asthma is investigating whether adding high-dose Vitamin D to the standard treatment with an inhaled corticosteroid can reduce the severity of asthma flare-ups triggered by respiratory infections in preschool aged children.

Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease, affecting approximately 10 per cent of Canadian children. Common symptoms include wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.  Acute asthma attacks can be extremely stressful for the affected children and their families.

Dr. Dirk Bock, Associate Scientist, Lawson Health Research Institute (Lawson), and Paediatrician, Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), is leading the local study site for the DIVA Study.

Above from left to right: Lawson Research Coordinators, Katherine Maguire and Vinolia ArthurHayward, Dr. Aaron St-Laurent, Dr. Dirk Bock, Dr. April Price and Dr. Tara Mullowney


“We’re testing the addition of an oral Vitamin D supplementation to the standard of care to see if we can reduce the severity and frequency of asthma flare-ups for children, ages one to five years,” explains Dr. Bock.

“If confirmed, this finding could have a significant impact on how asthma in young children is managed.”

Participating children will be randomly assigned to one of two groups and will either receive a high-dose Vitamin D supplement or a placebo as part of the control group. Both groups will receive the same level of standard care as part of the study protocol.

“Over 80 per cent of asthma exacerbations in children are triggered by viral upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold. Preschool age children have a higher rate of emergency department visits and hospitalizations than any other age group,” explains Dr. Bock.

Current treatment of asthma in preschool children uses a daily inhaled corticosteroid (commonly known as a “cortisone puffer”). Up to half of these treated children will still require an oral corticosteroid for acute asthma attacks. In previous smaller studies, high-dose Vitamin D was found to have a protective effect, reducing the need for oral corticosteroids by up to 37 per cent, and emergency department visits by over 60 per cent, with no adverse effects. However, there is insufficient data on preschool children and more research is needed to validate these early results.

Recruitment for this study is ongoing from September to November, 2019. For families who are interested, a secure online self-screening tool is available. They will be able to assess if their child is likely to qualify for participation in the study. For more information families are encouraged to contact the study coordinator at 519-685-8500 ex. 74817.