That's the conclusion of a randomized, double blind study of l89 young (an average of l0 months) children hospitalized in South Africa because of measles complicated by pneumonia, diarrhoea or croup.Those children who received a total of 400,000 IU of vitamin A in the form of retinyl palmitate taken orally recovered more quickly from pneumonia and diarrhoea and had less croup than their counterparts receiving a placebo. The group receiving the vitamin also remained in hospital fewer days.
Of the l2 children who died, l0 were on the sugar pill. The report, from the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Cape Town, determined that "the risk of death or a major complication" while the child was in hospital was halved by taking the vitamin.
"All children with severe measles should be given vitamin A supplements, whether or not they are thought to have a nutritional deficiency," the report concluded.