Iron Deficiency Anemia
Although not as common as it once was, thanks to the increased availability of foods with iron in the 1980s and 1990s, iron deficiency is still a common cause of anemia in young children.
Our bodies need a certain amount of iron to help the hemoglobin in our blood cells carry oxygen. Iron is also a part of many enzymes and is needed for them to work properly, for example to help digest food and regulate cell growth, etc., and it helps our muscles use oxygen.
Children can develop an iron deficiency because they don’t get enough foods with iron in their diet, which is the most common way, or because they are chronically losing blood and iron for some reason.
Many children don’t have any signs or symptoms of iron deficiency anemia symptoms and instead are detected on a routine screening test.
Others do have iron deficiency anemia symptoms or signs, which can include.
- general paleness, including pale skin, lips, and lining of the eyes (pallor).
- pounding or racing heartbeat (palpitations).
- feeling weak.
- getting tired easy.
- poor school performance.
- trouble maintaining a normal body temperature.
- having an inflamed tongue (glossitis).
- cracking or splits in the corners of the lips (angular stomatitis, cheilitis, or cheilosis).
- chewing on non-food items, such as clay, paper, dirt, etc., which is called pica, or chewing on ice (pagophagia).
- having thin and brittle finger nails, which become spoon shaped (koilonychia).
- developing a bluish tinge to the sclera or white part of the eye (blue sclera).
- increased risk of infections.
Recognizing and treating iron deficiency anemia is important, as it can also affect a child’s motor development and mental development.
Even without causing anemia, it is thought that iron deficiency may affect a teenagers memory and mental functions. In adults, it can also cause fatigue and impair their ability to do physical work.
Treatment for iron deficiency anemia typically involves giving the child or teen an iron supplement and reversing the cause of the iron deficiency, such as getting toddlers to drink less than 24 ounces of milk, and getting kids to eat more foods with iron.
Talk to your pediatrician about the best iron supplement, dose, and how long your child will need to take his iron supplement. Keep in mind that although many multivitamins for kids may contain iron, it is usually not enough to treat a child with iron deficiency.
Side effects of iron supplements can sometimes include temporary staining of the teeth, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, dark colored stools, and/or stomach aches.