How Much Selenium Does a Child Need?

Posted on July 26 2022, By: Dr. Aqsa Ph.D. Scholar in Nutrigenomics

How Much Selenium Does a Child Need?




Selenium is an essential trace mineral that is present in natural foods and is also available in the form of dietary supplements. Major dietary sources of this mineral include oysters, eggs, sunflower seeds, shiitake mushrooms, Brazil nuts, tuna, and sardines. Several studies have depicted that the concentration of selenium in plant-based foods depends on the amount of selenium found in the soil. Thus, selenium amounts in crops majorly depend on where they are farmed. (1)(2)

What does selenium do? Selenium is an important nutrient for the human body as it is a part of several selenoproteins. These proteins play a fundamental role in the metabolism of thyroid hormones, DNA synthesis, and reproduction. They also provide protection from infections and oxidative damage. Research has shown that this trace mineral provides several health benefits to the human body, including supporting mental functions, supporting thyroid functions, and enhancing immune functions. (1)

Deficiency of this essential mineral can result in several health complications in humans, including weakness, fatigue, weakened immune system, foggy mental state, muscle weakness, infertility, and hair loss. To prevent these health complications, try to incorporate selenium-rich foods into your child’s diet. In cases of severe deficiency, you can also give selenium supplements to your child after the approval of your physician. (1)

How Does Selenium Function in Your Child’s Body?

When you think about what’s important for your child’s health, do you include selenium in their dietary needs? This essential trace mineral performs several important functions in your child’s body, such as helping in the formation of antioxidant enzymes which play a crucial role in protecting your child’s body from oxidative damage and stress. It also promotes the normal functioning of the immune system and thyroid hormones, and it helps prevent brain damage in kids. Additionally, it has been found that this essential mineral is effective in treating several health conditions, such as dandruff, asthma, infertility, and arthritis.

How is selenium absorbed in your child’s body? A recent study has found that this trace mineral is mostly absorbed in the caecum and duodenum through active transport by using sodium pumps. Additional research has revealed that this mineral is present in the form of selenomethionine in the human body as it incorporates the amino acid methionine in bodily tissues. Around 28-46% of the body’s total selenium is found in the skeletal muscles. Any excess of selenium is removed through urine from your child’s body. (1)(2)

Why Do Children Need Selenium?

Though you may not hear about selenium often, this essential nutrient is mandatory for your child’s health and must be obtained through diet. Selenium is required in very small amounts by your child’s body but plays a crucial role in maintaining their thyroid functions and metabolism. Below are several health benefits that selenium provides for your kid: (3)

  • Acts as a strong antioxidant
  • Helps maintain thyroid health
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Supports heart health

Acts as a strong antioxidant: According to health experts, antioxidants present in foods protect your body from the damage of free radicals, which are produced in your child’s body in part through metabolic processes. These free radicals can enhance oxidative stress in children, which can result in several chronic diseases, such as stroke, cancer, hypertension, and diabetes at a later age. (4)

Research has shown that antioxidants like selenium can reduce oxidative stress in children by reducing the number of free radicals in their bodies. It works by neutralizing excessive free radicals and protecting the body’s cells from the damage that is caused by oxidative stress. (5)

Helps maintain thyroid health: Research has found that selenium is crucial for thyroid functions in your child’s body. In fact, the tissues of the thyroid contain the highest concentration of this mineral as compared to other organs in the body. This powerful antioxidant protects the thyroid gland from the damage of oxidative stress and promotes the production of thyroid hormones.

According to health experts, a healthy thyroid is important for proper growth and development in children. This is because this gland plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism and controlling development and growth. Studies have shown that selenium deficiency is strongly linked with several thyroid conditions, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (a condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland). (6)

One recent observational study has depicted that low serum selenium levels in children are mainly linked with the high risk of hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis at a later age. (7)

Boosts the immune system: A healthy immune system keeps your child’s body healthy and fights off potential threats, including parasites, viruses, and bacteria. Selenium boosts your child’s immune system by reducing inflammation. On the other hand, lower selenium levels can harm immune cells in children and can slow immune response in their bodies. (8)

Additionally, selenium supplements are effective in boosting immune functions in people suffering from hepatitis C, influenza, and tuberculosis (TB). (9

Supports heart health: According to health experts, a selenium-rich diet is good for your child’s heart health, while a low selenium diet can enhance the risk of heart problems. One recent observational study shows that a 50% increase in blood selenium levels reduces the risk of heart problems by 24% in humans. This is because it can reduce the number of inflammatory markers in the body, which is one of the main risk factors of heart diseases. (10)

Another recent study has shown that heart patients taking selenium supplements observed a visible decline in inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) in their blood. (11)

What Is Selenium Deficiency?

According to a survey, almost 1 billion people in the world suffer from selenium deficiency. Population deficiency varies from region to region as selenium levels in foods for each region are dependent on the amount of selenium present in the soil where that food grows. Some common causes of selenium deficiency include: (12)

  1. Poor dietary intake of selenium-rich foods
  2. Consumption of foods that are grown in selenium-deficient soil

Below are some signs and symptoms you might observe in your child if they are selenium deficient:

  • Fatigue
  • Foggy mental state
  • Weakened immune system
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle weakness

Fatigue: Fatigue is commonly associated with the deficiency of essential minerals in children. This symptom is frequently observed in selenium-deficient kids because it plays a crucial role in maintaining thyroid functions. (12)

Foggy mental state: No one denies the importance of micronutrients in kids. Research has shown that lower selenium levels can result in brain fog in children. One study in particular found that low selenium levels in children were strongly associated with poor cognitive abilities in kids. However, more research is required to investigate the direct relationship between inadequate selenium intake and mental functions in children. (13)

Weakened immune system: If your child often gets sick then he might be suffering from a deficiency of micronutrients. According to health experts, poor selenium levels in the body’s serum can make your child more susceptible to infections and life-threatening diseases. Scientific studies have shown that selenium deficiency has increased the risk of viral infections, which can lead to damage to the heart muscle (cardiotoxicity) in children. (14)

Hair loss: Hair loss also indicates selenium deficiency in kids. This is because the thyroid gland plays an important role in proper hair regeneration and growth in children. Without adequate selenium levels, healthy functioning of the thyroid gland is not possible. The cells present in hair follicles respond to this drop in thyroid hormones, which can lead to hair falling out. (15)

Muscle weakness: When we talk about muscles, we typically discuss skeletal muscles and forget about cardiac muscles. Recent research has depicted that low selenium levels can affect both. Without adequate selenium intake, children are more prone to skeletal muscle disorders, which include fatigue, weakness, and pain, as well as damage to their heart muscles. (16)

How Much Selenium Does Your Kid Need per Day?

Dosing recommendations for zinc are given in the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). DRI is the optimal amount of nutrients that a person needs per day. (1)

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for this mineral is provided in micrograms (mcg) below. (1)

 Age Recommended daily amount in micrograms (mcg)
0-6 months 15 mcg
7-12 months 20 mcg
1-3 years 30 mcg
4-8 years 40 mcg
9-13 years 55 mcg
14-18 years 55 mcg
19+ years 55 mcg

Should You Give Selenium Supplements to Your Kids?

Selenium is shown to be safe for children when taken through the mouth in small doses of less than 400 mcg per day. Although selenium supplements are available and safe, it is ideal to fulfill your child’s selenium needs through their daily diet of selenium-rich foods. This is because mega doses of selenium supplements can be toxic for your child, and natural foods contain other vital nutrients that your kid needs too! (17)

Foods That Are Rich in Selenium

Major dietary sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, organ meats, and seafood. Other food sources of selenium are cereals, muscle meats, and dairy products. In the United States, the main food sources of selenium include eggs, bread, poultry, meat, and fish.

Here are some foods that contain a good amount of selenium: (1)

 Food Serving size Micrograms (mcg) per serving
Brazil nuts 1 oz  544 mcg
Cooked tuna 3 oz 90 mcg
Canned sardines 3 oz 45 mcg
Cooked macaroni 1 cup 37 mcg
Roasted turkey 3 oz 31 mcg
Pan-fried beef 3 oz 28 mcg
Roasted chicken 3 oz 22 mcg
Whole wheat bread 1 slice 13 mcg
Plain yogurt 1 cup 8 mcg


Risks and Side Effects of Selenium

In children, high doses of selenium supplements can cause several health complications, including vomiting, stomach cramps, intestinal gas, and diarrhea. Research has revealed that mega doses of selenium are unsafe, as they can lead to tremors, lightheadedness, blood clotting, skin flushing, and liver problems. (18

One recent study showed that long-term use of selenium can cause toxicity similar to arsenic poisoning. Symptoms of this toxicity include irritability, nail changes, vomiting, loss of energy, nail inflammation, metallic taste, and garlic breath.

Another scientific study has found that mega doses of selenium (more than 400 mcg per day) can enhance the risk of diabetes. Taking selenium supplements in excess can also enhance the risk of skin cancer and worsen hypothyroidism, especially in people suffering from iodine deficiency. It is recommended that you consult your child’s pediatrician before giving selenium supplements to your kid, and always start with providing them nutritious foods to fulfill their nutritional needs! (19)


Selenium is an essential trace mineral that performs several vital functions in your child’s body. It plays an important role in regulating metabolism and normal thyroid functions, maintaining heart health, and boosting the immune system. Major dietary sources of this mineral are Brazil nuts, organ meats, and seeds. Selenium deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, hair loss, muscle weakness, foggy mental state, and compromised immune functions. In case of severe deficiency, selenium supplements may be considered for your child with the approval of your child’s pediatrician. Only the recommended daily dose of selenium supplement should be given to your child as excess doses can lead to dangerous health risks and side effects.





Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not use this information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.