Iron is an essential mineral that is required by the human body for the production of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the substance responsible for carrying oxygen to different parts of the body and transferring them to various organs.1 The importance of iron for children cannot be neglected in any case, as it is the main nutrient required for the growth and development of children. Children need a lot of iron for their growth and development. Thus adequate intake of iron ensures healthy body development.
Iron plays an important role in absorbing oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. It helps to transport oxygen to all parts of the body from the heart to every organ. At the same time, it helps to absorb carbon dioxide from the blood and convert it into energy. Besides this, iron helps to improve the oxidation reaction in the hemoglobin, improves the absorption of nutrients and minerals in the blood, and improves mental and physical growth. Thus the importance of iron for physical health can not be ignored by any means.2
Thus it becomes very obvious that iron deficiency can cause numerous problems like growth problems, email, poor performance, fatigue, and weakness in children. Moreover, chronic iron deficiency can also cause a lot of disorders in adults as well. So the best way is to ensure adequate intake of iron for children to enjoy good health. The best option for intake of iron for children is non-heme iron. Non-heme iron does not contain any iron particles and hence provides excellent protection against the damage caused by iron absorption.3
Iron Deficiencies in Children
Iron deficiencies in children can be a very difficult challenge for any family to deal with. Iron is essential and children need iron in order for their red blood cells to make oxygen which is the fuel for all of the cells in the body, not just the heart and brain. If you were to ever drop a child off at the hospital and ask them what was lacking in their body, they would probably look at you and say nothing. The sad thing is that children with iron deficiencies are more likely to develop chronic illnesses at some point in their life than those who have abundant iron in their bodies.4
The good news is that there are many things parents can do to help prevent iron deficiencies in children and to help ensure that their child doesn’t ever go through an anemia episode. Often times when children are diagnosed with anemia, it’s because they’ve been on a strict diet and have had to eliminate certain foods from their diet because of their anemia.5 This is why it’s so important to teach children good eating habits and good dietary habits and to also supplement their diets with the proper amounts of iron supplements. If a child has been on a special diet for a long period of time then it may be much easier to get them to consume more foods that are rich in iron.6
Iron deficiencies in children can lead to many different kinds of diseases including anemia, fatigue, poor growth, and poor cognitive function. Some people don’t even realize that they have anemia until their doctor tells them. Children can have anemia for months or even years without knowing that they have it. It’s really important to educate yourself about the risks associated with anemia in children and the different treatments available to treat iron deficiency anemia. You don’t want your child to ever suffer from anemia because you didn’t even realize that it could be something serious.7
Iron Intakes for Infants and Young Children
How much iron do children need each day? This is one of the most frequently asked questions by new parents. The recommended iron intake for children, according to the medical society of children’s health, is appropriate for their age. Babies are born naturally with enough iron stored in their bones, but an adequate amount of extra iron is required to fuel a growing child’s development and rapid growth.8
Babies usually get their iron supply from their mother’s milk. However, breast milk may not be sufficient to meet a developing child’s nutritional needs. Iron supplements may be prescribed by a doctor to infants who don’t get sufficient amounts from their mothers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants between the ages of six months and three years old should receive one gram of iron per kilogram of body weight per day. This level is well below the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for adults and may help prevent iron deficiency anemia in young children.9
To meet a child’s iron needs, a variety of foods from animal sources, like red meat, poultry, and eggs, and plant sources, like spinach, broccoli, corn, peas, and Swiss chard are recommended. Meats and other animal proteins contain high levels of dietary iron and may help increase a child’s iron stores. Iron-fortified cereal products, like enriched white bread, brown rice, and pasta are also recommended. For infants and young children, a good source of iron-rich foods is flavored skim milk or one-percent milk powder. Iron-fortified orange juice and a few plain dried fruits may be used as a snack. Meats, eggs, and poultry can also be used in the preparation of lean meat for adults.
Iron deficiencies can affect anyone. Some people are more at risk of iron deficiency than others are. Children and adults who do not get enough iron in their daily diets may also be at risk of developing symptoms of an iron deficiency. Anemia is a common disease in children. But it can also occur in adults.10
When a person has an iron deficiency, symptoms will usually only show up after about six months. Iron supplements may be recommended by your doctor or you may follow a strict diet with iron-rich foods. In some cases, a small amount of iron will not cause any symptoms at all. At other times, an iron deficiency will lead to iron-depletion anemia. This is when your body doesn’t have enough hemoglobin or red blood cells.11
A person with iron deficiency will have anemia. Symptoms of anemia include pale skin and cramps. If you also have restless legs syndrome along with anemia, you probably feel restless or fatigued. In addition, you may have a weak pulse and breathing.
Iron deficiencies affect the absorption of vitamin C, the B vitamins, and folic acid in your intestines. Iron deficiency also affects the red blood cell count. Deficiencies that result from vitamin C deficiency cause dark urine and jaundice. Iron deficiencies cause symptoms similar to vitamin C deficiency: tiredness, dark urine, nausea, and loss of appetite. Iron deficiencies cause symptoms of an iron deficiency that include nausea and vomiting, fever, and muscle weakness. However, symptoms of iron deficiency usually begin to get better within two weeks.12
There are many good sources of iron. The best sources of iron are meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and lentils. Some vegetarians don’t eat any iron-rich foods because of the risks of iron deficiency. Iron-rich foods, such as whole-grain bread and cereals, contain good sources of iron. It’s a good idea to talk to your family doctor, your nutritionist, and your pharmacist about good sources of iron.
Iron supplements can help alleviate symptoms of an iron deficiency and prevent chronic kidney disease. Symptoms of anemia include red and pale skin, vomiting, and diarrhea. Iron deficiencies can result from a poor diet, eating too much red meat, drinking too much red wine or beer, and excessive tobacco use. Iron pills (listed above) can help increase iron absorption and improve symptoms of anemia.13 Some people benefit psychologically from iron supplements, so it’s important to discuss this with your physician.
Healthy Little Foodies / March 22, 2019
Element Nutrition Company / 2021
SR Nutrition / 2021
Oncohemna Key / 2021
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3 “Heme Iron vs Non-Heme Iron in Foods | Hemochromatosis Help.” https://hemochromatosishelp.com/heme-iron-vs-non-heme-iron/ Accessed 16 Aug. 2021.
4 “Iron deficiency in children: Prevention tips for parents – Mayo Clinic.” 10 Dec. 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/iron-deficiency/art-20045634 Accessed 16 Aug. 2021.
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9 “Importance of Dietary Sources of Iron in Infants and Toddlers ….” 11 Jul. 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537847/ Accessed 16 Aug. 2021.
10 “Iron – Consumer – Office of Dietary Supplements – NIH.” 22 Mar. 2021, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-Consumer/ Accessed 16 Aug. 2021.
11 “Iron – Consumer – Office of Dietary Supplements – NIH.” 22 Mar. 2021, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-Consumer/ Accessed 16 Aug. 2021.
12 “Vitamin C – Mayo Clinic.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-c/art-20363932 Accessed 16 Aug. 2021.
13 “Iron Supplements for Kids: Are They Safe? – WebMD.” 22 Feb. 2021, https://www.webmd.com/children/are-iron-supplements-safe-for-children Accessed 16 Aug. 2021.