Iron Deficiency in Children and 4 Tips to Prevent It

It is crazy how often we ignore malnutrition in children and take it as normal sickness. Even though it can be an underlying cause of a much serious disease. One of the most common forms of malnutrition is iron deficiency. Which can be the main cause of something as dangerous as Anemia

My sister kept worrying about the cranky behavior of my niece and mud and paint eating habits. She kept thinking the child is ‘mischievous’ and ‘out of control’. It was only until last week she saw a pediatrician because of the poor appetite of her daughter when her doctor who happens to be one of the best Pediatricians in Lahore by the way, told her that my niece has an iron deficiency.

Here is a brief detail on the iron requirement for children, iron deficiency symptoms, and some helpful tips for parents to prevent it.

Children Age Groups And Their Iron Requirement

Children require a different amount of iron at different stages of early childhood. That is because when babies are born, they have enough iron in their body but as they grow, they need more iron for their growth. Hence, the per day iron requirement in children looks like:

  • 11 milligrams for 7 to 12 months
  • 7 milligrams for 1 to 3 years
  • 10 milligrams for 4 to 8 years
  • 8 milligrams for 9 to 13 years
  • 15 and 11 milligrams for girls and boys of age 14 to 18 years respectively

Symptoms Of Iron Deficiency

The symptoms of iron deficiency can be as minor as the sudden change of mood in children to as severe as an inability to function well. Sadly, in most cases, it does not get diagnosed before children are diagnosed with anemia. 

But the common symptoms of iron deficiency are a weak immune system, fatigue, loss of appetite, pale complexion, breathing difficulties, behavioral changes, and non-nutritive cravings like dust, mud, and paint.

4 Tips For Parents For Iron Deficiency Management In Children

Moms who start giving their babies iron rich milk formula most likely do not have to worry about their child’s iron daily iron intake. Whereas, moms who breastfeed their babies need to make sure that their child is getting enough iron per day. 

  • Giving Iron Supplements

It is advised that parents should start giving their children iron supplements as early as the age of four months. However, if the baby was born premature, supplement intake must start even before, this is, at the age of two months all the way to the age where the baby starts eating iron rich food at least twice a day. Usually, oral iron supplements having ferrous sulfate or ferrous fumarate  are required to treat iron-deficiency.

  • Feeding Iron Rich Food

When the baby starts eating, which is around after four to six months, it is important to feed them iron rich food. For instance, pureed beans and pureed meat, iron-fortified baby cereal. For a bit older children, good sources of iron include spinach, chicken, beans, fish, and red meat.

  • Regulating Milk Intake

There is no doubt that milk is really important for child growth but cow’s milk is high in calcium and casein, and both of these nutrients tend to absorb iron. It is important to regulate milk intake especially cow’s milk intake among the children of the age group one to five years. It is recommended that the intake should not exceed twenty four fluid ounces. 

  • Adding Complementary Nutrients

Nutrients like vitamin C promote iron. Intake of such nutrients can be really beneficial. Thus foods like tomatoes, citrus fruits, berries, leafy veggies are important in the diet. Iron supplements are absorbed best when taken on an empty stomach or taken along with some kind of vitamin C source. They are absorbed inefficiently if fed after or along with meals. Iron supplements should not be fed with milk or dairy products.

Conclusion

Iron deficiency is a growing problem that is very common in young children and mothers as well. However, iron deficiency can be prevented and treated. It is recommended that parents should get their child tested for an iron deficiency when they are almost nine to twelve months old. Feed your children iron supplements as prescribed by their doctor. Make sure their diet is balanced. Consult your child’s pediatrician immediately if you see the symptoms of iron deficiency in your child.

Iron deficiency can be an underlying cause of a much serious disease. Some tips for parents to deal with the issue are feeding their child iron-rich food, incorporating iron supplements, regulating milk intake, and adding vitamin C to the diet.