Iron is responsible for producing our blood cells and building muscle. It is particularly important for young children because they experience periods of rapid growth. Developmental years are important iron years, so be sure your child is consuming enough in their diets or through supplements.
For more information on vitamins, nutrients, or minerals, visit our Vitamins and Deficiencies blog.
According to the AAP, approximately 7% of toddlers are deficient in iron.
The APA notes that children that drink too much milk may develop anemia due to iron deficiency. In addition, large quantities of milk can cause some children to be less interested in other iron-rich foods. If your child drinks more than 32 ounces of milk per day and has one or more symptoms of iron deficiency, contact your healthcare provider.
These deficiencies are more common in teenagers than in younger kids. In fact, once girls start menstruating, they require significantly more iron than boys do.
- Gastrointestinal disturbances
- Impaired cognitive function
- Decreased immune function
- Body temperature irregularities
- Psychomotor and cognitive abnormalities
- Learning difficulties
- Decreased immunity
Anemia is a condition that limits the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. If our red blood cells are not carrying enough oxygen to muscles and organs, this can place stress on the body. Furthermore, long-term stress on the body can produce complications, so it’s important to catch this issue sooner rather than later. This condition is associated with pale pallor, weakness, irritability, and tiring easily. Also, in some extreme cases, a child may become jaundiced, or have yellow skin and/or eyes, have shortness of breath, swollen hands/feet, and/or rapid heart rate. Anemia is a fairly common condition and is easy to treat in most individuals. Anemia is caused by iron-deficiency, certain blood disorders like sickle-cell anemia, or blood loss.
Iron toxicity is dangerous to humans. Annually, there are over 15000 cases of iron toxicity reported to poison control centers. Approximately 20% of these cases result in complications. Too much iron can cause damage to the entire system in addition to the GI tract. Additionally, it has caused death in some children. Fatal iron overdose is uncommon, and the incidence of child fatalities has steadily decreased over the last few decades. However, there is still a risk for young children.
Symptoms of Iron Toxicity
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody stool
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin/nails/eyes)
If your child is exhibiting these symptoms, or if suspect your child has ingested too much iron, your child needs to be assessed. You may also choose to call your local poison control center.
Toxicity in children is usually due to kids accidentally eating prenatal vitamins or adult supplements. Some of these tablets are sugar-coated and taste yummy to kids. All adult medications and vitamins should be kept far out of reach of children. No pill bottles should ever be left out or open, and they should be stored way above kids’ arm reaches. Kids vitamins are much harder to overdose on and are less likely to cause damage than adult vitamins.
In conclusion, it is important to remember that diet supplements are not tested and regulated like prescription drug products. Problems with safety, contamination, and quality are common with these products, even if purchased from a reliable source.
Finally, it can be hard to include the right balance of vitamins your kids need through food alone. It’s always important to provide good, balanced meals for your little ones. Families who are vegetarian or vegan may need to rely on supplements for some of the vitamins found in meat and/or dairy. Additionally, if your child has bad eating habits, they may require supplements.
For those interested in the minimum RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowances), refer to this National Academies chart.
Also, if you are unsure about your vitamin/mineral levels, a lab test can identify if you or your child are deficient. If you choose to provide nutrients in the form of supplements, it is still important to maintain good health in other ways. As always, keep all supplements out of reach of children.
For a more in-depth look at deficiency and toxicity, check back in on our upcoming blog series, including the following:
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin D and Calcium
- Vitamin C
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin A
Finally, for questions or concerns, please respond to this blog or contact us.