Infants and Children
Polyhematin for Kids & Children
Iron deficiency in children: Prevention tips for parents
Iron deficiency in children can affect development and lead to anemia. Find out how much iron your child needs, the best sources of iron and more. Is your child getting enough iron in his or her diet? Find out what causes iron deficiency in children, how to recognize it and how to prevent it. Is your child getting enough iron in his or her diet? Find out what causes iron deficiency in children, how to recognize it and how to prevent it.
Why is iron important for children?
Iron is a nutrient that’s essential to your child’s growth and development. Iron helps move oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and helps muscles store and use oxygen. If your child’s diet lacks iron, he or she might develop a condition called iron deficiency.
Iron deficiency in children can occur at many levels, from depleted iron stores to anemia — a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. Untreated iron deficiency can affect a child’s growth and development.
What are the risk factors for iron deficiency in children?
Infants and children at highest risk of iron deficiency include:
- Babies who are born prematurely — more than three weeks before their due date — or have a low birth weight
- Babies who drink cow’s milk or goat’s milk before age 1
- Breast-fed babies who aren’t given complementary foods containing iron after age 6 months
- Babies who drink formula that isn’t fortified with iron
- Children ages 1 to 5 who drink more than 24 ounces (710 milliliters) of cow’s milk, goat’s milk or soy milk a day
- Children who have certain health conditions, such as chronic infections or restricted diets
- Children ages 1 to 5 who have been exposed to lead
Adolescent girls also are at higher risk of iron deficiency because their bodies lose iron during menstruation.
Reference Source: mayoclinic.org
How can iron deficiency in children be prevented?
If you’re feeding your baby iron-fortified formula, he or she is likely getting the recommended amount of iron. If you’re breast-feeding your baby, follow these supplementation recommendations:
- Full-term infants. Start giving your baby an iron supplement at age 4 months. Continue giving your baby the supplement until he or she is eating two or more servings a day of iron-rich foods, such as fortified cereal or pureed meat. If you breast-feed and give your baby fortified formula and the majority of your baby’s feedings are from formula, stop giving your baby the supplement.
- Premature infants. Start giving your baby an iron supplement at age 2 weeks. Continue giving your baby the supplement until age 1. If you breast-feed and give your baby fortified formula and the majority of your baby’s feedings are from formula, stop giving your baby the supplement.
Other steps you can take to prevent iron deficiency include:
- Serve iron-rich foods. When you begin serving your baby solids — typically between ages 4 months and 6 months — feed him or her foods with added iron, such as iron-fortified baby cereal, pureed meats and pureed beans. For older children, good sources of iron include red meat, chicken, fish, beans and dark green leafy vegetables.
- Don’t overdo milk. Between ages 1 and 5, don’t allow your child to drink more than 24 ounces (710 milliliters) of milk a day.
- Enhancing absorption. Vitamin C helps promote the absorption of dietary iron. You can help your child absorb iron by offering foods rich in vitamin C — such as citrus fruits, cantaloupe, strawberries, bell pepper, tomatoes and dark green vegetables.