Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in children worldwide. It occurs at different degrees from mild deficiency to anemia. An anemic child does not have enough red blood cells or enough hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein that allows red blood cells to carry oxygen to other cells in the body; iron is needed to form hemoglobin.
In this article, we will help you understand everything about iron deficiency. From causes, signs, and symptoms to prevention and treatment, this is every parent’s ultimate guide
Some Causes of iron deficiency
- Giving cow milk to the child before turning one.
- Not including iron-rich food in the child’s meals.
- Overweight or obesity.
- A growth spurt that was not supported by the needed iron intake
- Blood loss
Signs and symptoms
- Pale skin
- Cold hands and feet
- Slow growth
- Motor and cognitive delay
- Poor appetite
- Rapid breathing
- Frequent infections
- Cravingodd substances as dirt or ice
In many cases, anemia doesn’t show any symptoms on the child. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends anemia screening for all kids at 12 months of age. Screening is done via the below tests. Hemoglobin test is the first screening needed and the remaining tests are taken if the hemoglobin level is low.
Hemoglobin and hematocrit: Measures the amount of hemoglobin and red blood cells in the blood.
Complete blood count (CBC): Checks the red and white blood cells and blood clotting cells (platelets).
Peripheral smear: A small sample of blood is examined under a microscope. Blood cells are examined to see if they look normal or not.
Prevention and Treatment
Remember that you should consult your child’s pediatrician before applying any treatments:
- Breastmilk is the best option for your baby. If you don’t breastfeed, please consult your doctor who will probably recommend giving your child formula milk that is fortified with iron.
- A young child’s formula milk that is fortified with iron is prefered than cow milk. Two daily cups of Bebejunior 3 -250 ml each- give your child the daily needed intake of iron. To provide your child with the same iron amount from cow milk, you need to give them 166 cups of cow milk.
- Include iron-rich foods in your child’s diet such as red meat, chicken, eggs and fish.
- Include food rich in vitamin C in your child’s diet as oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Vitamin C helps the absorption of iron.
- Give your child an iron supplement. Consult your pediatrician if your child’s deficiency requires support via supplement rather than dietary iron.
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- Iron deficiency in Children: Prevention tips for parents– Mayo Clinic
- Iron deficiency anemia from diagnosis to treatment in children– National Center for Biotechnology Information
- Iron deficiency anemia in children– University of Rochester Medical Center
- Iron Deficiency and Other Types of Anemia in Infants and Children
- Vitamin and mineral requirements in human nutrition, Second edition, World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2004.
- Lait entier, pasteurisé. ANSES table française de composition des aliments Ciqual 2013.
- Tounian P. Carence martiale. Arch Pediatr 2017; 124: 5S23-5S31.
Further reading: How to Spot Series: Flat Feet in Children