What To Know About Iron Deficiency In Children

We need iron for lots of important things.  Iron helps move oxygen to the lungs.  As well as it helps muscles store and use oxygen.  Iron also helps physical growth, nerve development, and cell functioning.  Making sure our children get enough iron in their diets is key to keep them growing and healthy.  Iron deficiencies can even happen in our tiny children.  Iron deficiencies happen when the body isn’t getting enough iron in the body. 

Between the ages of 1 and 3 children need 7 mg of iron a day.  



Low iron can happen for many reasons. 

  • The main one is there isn’t a diet high enough in iron rich foods.  This can happen to vegetarians because they don’t get iron from meat. 
  • When your child goes through a growth spurt they can also have low iron levels. 
  • Gastrointestinal problems can also cause iron deficiencies.  GI problems can cause poor iron absorption. 
  • Blood loss can also cause low iron levels. 

The normal iron range of a one year to three year old is from 10.4-14. 


Risk Factors 

There are some children that are at more risk than others for iron deficiency. 

  • Premature babies are more at risk for anemia, or iron deficiency. 
  • Drinking cow’s or goat milk before the age of one can also cause low iron levels. 
  • Children between the ages of one and five should only be drinking about 24oz of milk per day. 
  • Overweight children could also be at higher risk for anemia.  



Iron deficiency can cause a number of different symptoms.  Your child may experience having pale skin, fatigue, cold hands or feet, slowed growth, poor appetite, abnormally rapid breathing, behavioral problems, frequent infection, irritability, wanting to eat odd things like dirt.  You can have any one of these, but don’t necessarily have to present all symptoms. 



Diagnosing an iron deficiency is relatively easy.  Your doctor will want to do a physical exam of your child.  Then they may want to take blood tests to check hemoglobin levels.  During some of your child’s check ups your pediatrician may check your child’s levels.  This is done with just a little toe stick.  If your child is out of the normal range for their age, your pediatrician may have some ideas on how to improve your child’s iron levels. 



One of the main ways to boost your child’s iron intake is by focusing on an iron rich diet.  Some iron rich foods to add are lean meats, such as dark chicken meat, or turkey.  Fortified cereals or oatmeal are also high in iron.  Beans such as white beans, lentils, or kidney beans are also good things to add.  Spinach, raisins, prunes, pumpkin seeds, eggs, green beans, tuna, and tofu are also all very high iron rich foods. 

To help your iron absorb better into your body you will also want to increase the vitamin C you are consuming.  To get good amounts of vitamin C add oranges, lemons, mandarins, berries, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, cabbage, capsicum, and broccoli into your child’s diet. 

If adding in these foods into your child’s diet still doesn’t increase their iron you may need to look at putting them on supplements.  Make sure you take the supplements exactly how your doctor prescribes them to be taken. 

You will also want to make sure that you aren’t overdoing the milk.  If your child is between one and five they should only be having about 24 ounces of milk a day. 

In severe cases a blood transfusion may need to be done. 

If anemia is caused by an underlying disease, you will want to get treatment for that to help with the anemia symptoms. 

Breastfed babies that aren’t getting iron rich foods after 6 months of age, or formula fed babies that aren’t getting a formula with extra iron added in are also at risk of low iron levels.  



Iron is essential for your child to grow up healthy.  Your child needs iron to help move oxygen through their blood.  Not having enough iron in their systems can cause lots of symptoms that can affect their growth, mood, and behavior. 

Finding out that your child has anemia can be an easy toe stick at the doctor’s office.  Once your child’s levels are found out, your pediatrician will know what the best course of treatment is for you.  Adding in some iron rich foods, as well as foods with a lot of vitamin C to help with absorption.  Rechecking your child’s levels is important to make sure the treatment you are doing is working.  


Read more: 5 Health Tests And Examinations Every Child Should Get


Vitamin C and iron rich foods are important for toddlers!

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HealthStatus Team

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