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Iron deficiency in children can affect development and lead to anemia. Find out what causes iron deficiency in children, how to recognize it and how to prevent it.
Iron is a nutrient that's essential to your child's growth and development. Iron helps move oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and helps muscles store and use oxygen. If your child's diet lacks iron, he or she might develop a condition called iron deficiency.
Iron deficiency in children can occur at many levels, from depleted iron stores to anemia — a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. Untreated iron deficiency can affect a child's growth and development.
Babies are born with iron stored in their bodies, but a steady amount of additional iron is needed to fuel a child's rapid growth and development. Here's a guide to iron needs at different ages:
|Age group||Recommended amount of iron a day|
|7 - 12 months||11 mg|
|1 - 3 years||7 mg|
|4 - 8 years||10 mg|
|9 - 13 years||8 mg|
|14 - 18 years, girls||15 mg|
|14 - 18 years, boys||11 mg|
Infants and children at highest risk of iron deficiency include:
Adolescent girls also are at higher risk of iron deficiency because their bodies lose iron during menstruation.
Too little iron can impair your child's ability to function. However, most signs and symptoms of iron deficiency in children don't appear until iron deficiency anemia occurs. If your child has risk factors for iron deficiency, talk to his or her health care provider.
Signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anemia might include:
If you're feeding your baby iron-fortified formula, he or she is likely getting the recommended amount of iron. If you're breast-feeding your baby, follow these supplementation recommendations:
Other steps you can take to prevent iron deficiency include:
Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia are typically diagnosed through blood tests. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants be tested for iron deficiency anemia starting between ages 9 months and 12 months and, for those who have risk factors for iron deficiency, again at later ages. Depending on the screening results, your child's health care provider might recommend an oral iron supplement or a daily multivitamin or further testing.
Iron deficiency in children can be prevented. To keep your child's growth and development on track, offer iron-rich foods at meals and snacks and talk to your child's health care provider about the need for screenings and iron supplements.
This article is written by Mayo Clinic Staff and can be found with other health and medical information on mayoclinic.org.
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