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When Your Child Gets Iron Deficiency

Posted Oct 07 2008 7:07pm
Hi Everyone,

Welcome back to Medicine Mondays.

Each Monday I'll post the questions that I have collected over the week. If you have a question please feel free to send me an email or leave me a comment. I welcome every comment and hope to help answer some questions. Just remember that my advice is not a substitute for a physical exam and medical advice that your family doctor can provide.

Today I'm going to talk about my youngest son who was just diagnosed with iron-deficiency Anemia. I wasn't too surprised given that he'd been looking really pale but I have to say I was surprised that it was as low as it as. I thought we were doing all the right things such as eating high iron foods such as red meat, beans and raisins but it wasn't enough.

If you need to know the what and why's of iron deficiency then MedlinePlus has a good synopsis:

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia. Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in blood. Iron comes from the diet and by recycling iron from old red blood cells.

Babies are born with about 500 milligrams (mg) of iron in their bodies. By the time they reach adulthood they need to have about 5,000 mg.

Children need to absorb an average of 1 mg per day of iron to keep up with the needs of their growing bodies. Since children only absorb about 10% of the iron they eat, most children need to ingest 8-10 mg of iron per day. Breast-fed babies need less, because iron is absorbed 3 times better when it is in breast milk.

An iron-poor diet is a common cause of iron deficiency. Drinking too much cow's milk is a common cause of iron deficiency in young children because cow’s milk contains little iron and can get in the way of iron absorption. Cow's milk also can cause problems in the intestine that lead to blood loss and increased risk of anemia.

A common time for iron deficiency is between 9 - 24 months old. All babies should have a screening test for iron deficiency at this age. Babies born prematurely may need to be tested earlier. The adolescent growth spurt is another high-risk period.

Prevention is the best way to avoid any iron deficiency. Here's a list that includes some of the good, better and best sources of iron in foods.
  • Good sources include tuna, oatmeal, apricots, raisins, spinach, kale, greens, and prunes.
  • Better sources include eggs, meat, fish, chicken, turkey, soybeans, dried beans, peanut butter, peas, lentils, and molasses.
  • The best sources are breast milk (the iron is very easily used by the child), formula with iron, infant cereals, other iron-fortified cereals, liver, and prune juice.

We now have him on an iron supplementation (I put it in his juice to help mellow the flavor) and I'm increasing his iron in his diet. We gave him Cream of Wheat this weekend and added raisins to boot. It's going to take a couple of months to get his iron levels up and then even longer to replace his iron stores. But if I'm consistent he should recover nicely and have no long term consequences such as decreased alertness, attention span and learning.

If your child has iron deficiency anemia, leave me a comment. I'd love to hear how you got their iron levels up!
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