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Iron-Deficiency in children: Causes, Symptoms and Prevention

iron deficiency symptoms

Iron deficiency is a common nutritional deficiency, especially among children. It occurs when the body does not have enough iron to produce sufficient amounts of haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen to tissues and organs. Iron deficiency can lead to a condition called iron deficiency anaemia.

Iron deficiency causes

There are several causes of iron deficiency in children:

Inadequate iron intake: Children who do not consume enough iron-rich foods are at risk of developing iron deficiency. Breastfed infants are particularly vulnerable after six months of age when their iron stores from birth begin to deplete.

Poor iron absorption: Some children may have difficulties absorbing iron from their diet. This can occur due to various factors, including certain gastrointestinal disorders, chronic inflammation, or the presence of parasites in the digestive system.

Rapid growth and insufficient iron supply: Infants, toddlers, and adolescents undergo periods of rapid growth, which increases their iron requirements. If their iron intake is not sufficient to meet these demands, iron stores may become depleted.

Low iron content in diet: Some children may consume diets that are low in iron-rich foods. This can happen due to limited food availability, poor dietary choices, or a diet predominantly consisting of processed or fast foods with low iron content.

Blood loss: Children can experience blood loss due to factors such as chronic gastrointestinal bleeding (e.g., from ulcers, polyps, or inflammatory bowel disease), heavy menstrual bleeding (in adolescent girls), or frequent blood donation.

Chronic illnesses: Certain chronic conditions, such as kidney disease or inflammatory bowel disease, can interfere with iron absorption or increase iron loss, leading to iron deficiency.

Premature birth: Premature infants have lower iron stores at birth and often require iron supplementation to meet their nutritional needs.

It’s important to note that iron deficiency can have long-term consequences on a child’s growth, cognitive development, and immune function. If you suspect your child may have iron deficiency, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.

Also Read: 10 Tips to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables

Iron deficiency symptoms

Iron deficiency in children can manifest with various symptoms, although some children may not show noticeable signs until the deficiency becomes severe. Here are some common symptoms of iron deficiency in children:

Fatigue and weakness: One of the earliest symptoms of iron deficiency is fatigue. Children may appear more tired, sluggish, or have reduced stamina compared to their usual activity levels.

Pale skin and mucous membranes: Iron deficiency can cause a paleness in the skin, lips, and the inside of the eyelids. This is because iron is essential for the production of haemoglobin, which gives blood its red colour.

Shortness of breath: Inadequate iron levels can affect the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells, leading to shortness of breath, especially during physical activity.

Rapid heartbeat: Iron deficiency may result in an increased heart rate or heart palpitations, as the heart works harder to compensate for the reduced oxygen supply to tissues.

Poor appetite: Children with iron deficiency may have a decreased appetite, leading to reduced food intake.

Delayed growth and development: Iron is crucial for growth and development. Iron deficiency in children can lead to slow growth, delayed motor skills, and cognitive development.

Restless leg syndrome: Some children with iron deficiency may experience a condition called restless leg syndrome, characterised by an irresistible urge to move the legs, especially at night. This can interfere with sleep patterns.

Brittle nails and hair loss: Insufficient iron levels can lead to brittle nails that are prone to breaking easily. In some cases, children may also experience hair loss or thinning.

Frequent infections: Iron deficiency can weaken the immune system, making children more susceptible to infections, such as respiratory tract infections or gastrointestinal infections.

It’s important to remember that these symptoms can be caused by various other conditions as well, so a proper diagnosis by a healthcare professional is necessary to confirm iron deficiency. If you suspect your child may have iron deficiency, consult a healthcare provider for evaluation and appropriate management.

Also Read: 10 Tips to Get Kids to Eat Fruits

Iron deficiency treatment

The treatment of iron deficiency in children typically involves increasing their iron levels through dietary changes and, in some cases, iron supplementation. Here are some common approaches to treating iron deficiency in children:

Iron-rich diet: Encourage your child to consume a diet that includes iron-rich foods. Good dietary sources of iron include lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes (such as beans and lentils), fortified cereals, tofu, spinach, broccoli, and iron-fortified infant cereals. It’s important to ensure a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods to meet their nutritional needs.

Vitamin C-rich foods: Pair iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron in the body. Include fruits like oranges, strawberries, kiwi, and vegetables like bell peppers and tomatoes in your child’s meals.

Iron supplementation: In cases where dietary changes are insufficient to meet iron needs or if iron deficiency is severe, a healthcare professional may recommend iron supplementation. Iron supplements can come in the form of drops, chewable tablets, or capsules. It is important to follow the dosage and instructions provided by the healthcare professional and continue the supplementation for the prescribed duration.

Treating underlying causes: If iron deficiency is caused by an underlying condition, such as chronic gastrointestinal bleeding or a gastrointestinal disorder, treating the underlying cause is crucial. This may involve medical interventions or medications to address the specific condition and prevent further iron loss.

Regular monitoring: Regular follow-up visits with a healthcare professional are important to monitor your child’s response to treatment and ensure their iron levels are improving. Blood tests may be conducted to measure haemoglobin and ferritin levels to assess the effectiveness of the treatment.

Addressing dietary concerns: If your child has specific dietary restrictions, allergies, or aversions that limit their iron intake, consult a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian. They can help develop a personalised plan to ensure your child’s iron needs are met while considering their dietary limitations.

It’s important to note that the duration of treatment may vary depending on the severity of iron deficiency and the individual child’s response. Compliance with the treatment plan and regular follow-up visits are crucial for successful management of iron deficiency in children. Always consult with a healthcare professional for personalised advice and guidance.

Also Read: 5 Healthy Breakfast Ideas with Oats

EuroSchool believes that healthy students are better learners, and they are committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for all students.



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