Observational studies suggest that serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) are inversely associated with acute respiratory tract infections (ARIs). We hypothesized that vitamin D supplementation of children with vitamin D deficiency would lower the risk of ARIs.

By using cluster randomization, classrooms of 744 Mongolian schoolchildren were randomly assigned to different treatments in winter (January-March). This analysis focused on a subset of 247 children who were assigned to daily ingestion of unfortified regular milk (control; n = 104) or milk fortified with 300 IU of vitamin D(3) (n = 143). This comparison was double-blinded. The primary outcome was the number of parent-reported ARIs over the past 3 months.

At baseline, the median serum 25(OH)D level was 7 ng/mL (interquartile range: 5-10 ng/mL). At the end of the trial, follow-up was 99% (n = 244), and the median 25(OH)D levels of children in the control versus vitamin D groups was significantly different (7 vs 19 ng/mL; P < .001). Compared with controls, children receiving vitamin D reported significantly fewer ARIs during the study period (mean: 0.80 vs 0.45; P = .047), with a rate ratio of 0.52 (95% confidence interval: 0.31-0.89). Adjusting for age, gender, and history of wheezing, vitamin D continued to halve the risk of ARI (rate ratio: 0.50 [95% confidence interval: 0.28-0.88]). Similar results were found among children either below or above the median 25(OH)D level at baseline (rate ratio: 0.41 vs 0.57; P(interaction) = .27).

Vitamin D supplementation significantly reduced the risk of ARIs in winter among Mongolian children with vitamin D deficiency.