Iron deficiency in children can affect growth and lead to anemia. To find out how much iron your child needs, the best sources of iron and more, keep reading.
Is your child getting enough iron from his diet? Come with us to learn about the causes that lead to iron deficiency in children, how to recognize this deficiency and how to prevent it.
Why is iron important for children?
Iron is an essential nutrient for your baby’s growth and development. Iron helps transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and helps muscles use oxygen. And if your child’s diet lacks iron, he or she may develop a condition called iron deficiency.
Iron deficiency in children can occur at many levels. For example, iron deficiency can cause a child to develop anemia (a condition in which the number of healthy red blood cells in the blood is reduced). Red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues of the body, which provides energy and gives the skin a healthy color. If iron deficiency persists without treatment in children, it can cause delays in physical and mental development in many areas such as walking and speaking.
How much iron do children need?
Babies are born with an adequate amount of iron stored in the body, but they require a steady amount of extra iron to enhance their growth and development. Here is a guide to iron needs at certain ages:
The daily recommended amount of iron by age:
- 7 to 12 months – 11 mg
- From 1 to 3 years – 7 mg
- From 4 to 8 years – 10 mg
- From 9 to 13 years old – 8 mg
- Between 14 and 18 years (girls) – 15 mg
- From 14 to 18 years (boys) – 11 mg
Factors that increase the risk of iron deficiency in children
Children most likely to suffer from iron deficiency are:
- Babies born prematurely (more than three weeks before their due date) or who have a low birth weight.
- Children who drink cow’s milk before the age of one year.
- Babies who are breastfed and do not receive complementary foods that contain iron after 6 months of age.
- Children who eat meals not fortified with iron.
- Children 1 to 5 years of age who drink more than 24 ounces (710 milliliters) of cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or soy milk daily.
- Children with certain health conditions, such as chronic infections.
- Children who eat restricted diets.
- Teenage girls also are at risk of iron deficiency because their bodies lose iron during menstruation.
Signs and symptoms of iron deficiency in children
Too little iron can impair a child’s ability to function, however, most signs and symptoms of iron deficiency in children do not appear until the child develops iron deficiency anemia.
Signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anemia are:
- Fatigue or weakness
- Pale complexion.
- Lack of appetite.
- breathing difficulties.
- Sore tongue.
- Difficulty maintaining body temperature.
- Increased likelihood of infection.
- Behavior problems.
- Unusual craving for non-food substances, such as ice, soil, or pure starch.
Prevention of iron deficiency in children
Take steps to prevent your child’s iron deficiency by paying attention to his diet. for example:
Breastfeed with iron-fortified formula. And until your baby reaches the age of one year, breastfeeding is recommended. The iron in breast milk is absorbed more easily than the iron in other foods. If breastfeeding is not possible, use an iron-fortified milk formula. Cow’s milk is not a good source of iron for infants and it is not recommended for children under one year of age.
Encourage children to eat a balanced diet. When you start giving your baby some foods (usually at ages 4 and 6 months), feed him foods with added iron, such as iron-fortified baby cereals and whole grains.
For older children, some good sources of iron include egg yolks, red meat, chicken, fish, beans, and green leafy vegetables. He also recommends limiting foods that are low in calories and low in vitamins and minerals, such as foods high in salt and chips.
Vitamin C improves absorption. It helps boost iron absorption in the diet. Although lemon juice is not recommended for children under one year of age, you can help the child absorb iron by introducing other foods rich in vitamin C (such as watermelon, strawberries, apricots, kiwi, broccoli, tomatoes, and potatoes).
You should consider taking iron supplements. If your baby is born prematurely, has a low birth weight, or if you breastfeed a baby after 6 months of age and who is not eating two or more servings per day of iron-rich foods such as iron-fortified cereals or pureed meat, talk to your baby’s doctor about oral iron supplements.
How do I discover iron deficiency in my child?
Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia are usually diagnosed with blood tests. Some experts recommend that all babies be screened for iron deficiency anemia between 9 and 12 months. Ask your doctor about screening recommendations for your child, especially if you are concerned about an iron deficiency. And be prepared to provide details about your child’s diet to the doctor.
Depending on the conditions and possible results of the test, the doctor may recommend that the child take an oral iron supplement or a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement.
Preventing iron deficiency in children helps keep your child constantly growing and developing, so you should pay attention to the amount of iron your child gets from his diet, and talk to your child’s doctor about the need for screening tests or taking iron supplements.