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Vitamin K—what, why, and when
  1. E Hey
  1. Correspondence to:
    Edmund Hey, Retired Paediatrician, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE3 1UD;shey{at}


Policies for giving babies vitamin K prophylactically at birth have been dictated, over the last 60 years, more by what manufacturers decided on commercial grounds to put on the market, than by any informed understanding of what babies actually need, or how it can most easily be given. By a pure fluke a 1 mg IM dose, designed to prevent early vitamin deficiency bleeding (“haemorrhagic disease of the newborn”) has been found to protect against late deficiency bleeding—a condition unrecognised at the time this policy took hold. Alternative strategies for oral prophylaxis are now opening up (see pp 109 and 113), but these are also, at the moment, dictated more by what the manufacturers choose to provide than by what would make for ease of delivery either in poor countries, or in the developed world.

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