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  • Writer's pictureDr Ali A Nejat

Iron deficiency in Children

Updated: Jul 26, 2022


If your child is suffering from one of the iron deficiency symptoms, it is better to check for iron level:


Delayed growth or development

Impaired cognitive function;

Decreased memory,

Impaired learning and concentration

Behavioural disturbances

Fatigue

PICA – eating of non-nutritive substances such as paper, wood and soil 1




At school, it can cause lower school performances and at home, it can cause lots of difficulties in parenting. If neglected it can have detrimental effects on the well-being of our children.

If it gets severe it can cause iron deficiency anaemia ( decreased red cells in the blood).







What are the risk factors of iron deficiency?


Infants

Iron deficiency during pregnancy

Prematurity and/or low birth-weight

Multiple pregnancies of mother

Exclusive breastfeeding after 6 months 

Late or insufficient introduction of iron-rich solids

Excess cow's milk consumption

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 



Children


Vegetarian or vegan diet

Gastrointestinal disorders e.g. Meckel’s diverticulum, coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, gastric or intestinal surgery or infection Other chronic blood loss


Adolescents


Vegetarian or vegan diet

Heavy menstrual bleeding

Gastrointestinal disorders e.g. coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, gastric or intestinal surgery or infection

Other chronic blood loss 

Extreme athletes




Iron deficiency investigations:


Your doctor can order ferritin levels to check on iron reserve and FBE to check on red cells.

In iron deficiency anaemia rec cells get smaller and get less haemoglobin.



Iron deficiency treatment:


Preventive dose for iron deficiency is 1-2 mg/kg/day

Treatment of iron deficiency needs 3-6 mg/kg/day 2

In severe anaemia, higher doses can be prescribed. The iron supplement should be continued for 3 months after correction of anaemia to make sure good iron reserve is maintained.


Iron supplements can cause constipation or black stool. If constipation happens please visit your doctor to discuss it.

In older children, a high fibre diet can help but for younger ones times it is necessary to use proper laxatives. 3


For iron-rich foods please see below. Please note that in case of iron deficiency, iron supplements are needed.


Best sources of iron:


" Animal foods (haem iron) include:


 Lean red meats such as beef, lamb and veal.

Chicken, pork (including ham), fish, tuna, salmon and shellfish.Offal meats such as liver and kidney.Eggs


Plant foods (non-haem iron) include:


Iron-fortified breakfast cereals (check the label to see if iron is added). e.g. WeetBix™,


Farex™, Cerelac™Wholemeal/whole grain bread, also some white bread brands have iron

added – check the labels


Legumes e.g. lentils, baked beans, soybeans, kidney beans, chickpeas,


Tofu, Leafy green vegetables e.g. spinach, parsley, broccoli, Dried fruit e.g. apricots,


sultanas, Peanut butter and nuts (whole nuts are not recommended for children under five),


Milo® or Ovaltine®


for older children Tahini and hommus


Seeds, e.g. sesame seeds" 4


Please share this post to increase awareness of iron deficiency in children.


To book an appointment with our doctors in VIC Medical Doctors in Doncaster or Northcote please see www.vicmedicaldoctors.com.au


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