What Causes Iron Deficiency in Your Child – and How to Spot It
Iron deficiency anemia is relatively common among children Learn about the three main reasons this conditions occurs.
Contributor: Kadakkal Radhakrishnan, MD
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Iron deficiency anemia is relatively common among children and occurs when hemoglobin in the blood is less than the optimal level. Iron deficiency usually occurs for three main reasons:
Several signs can signal if your child may have an iron deficiency:
Children with iron deficiency also can be at higher risk for lead poisoning and infection.
Diagnosing an iron deficiency requires an assessment of your child by his or her pediatrician. The assessment involves going over a detailed history, nutritional intake, a physical examination and finally, a lab test that involves a complete blood count, including hemoglobin level, assessment of iron status and body stores that involve special tests.
While the most common cause of iron deficiency is inadequate dietary intake, these tests are necessary to precisely identify the deficiency’s cause.
Treatment of iron deficiency typically involves iron supplements – which may include prescription medications. This will take up to three months of treatment.
At the same time, the physician will likely evaluate and treat any underlying condition that may lead to malabsorption of iron or blood loss.
Although more rare, in an instance where the child’s hemoglobin levels become too low, he or she may require blood transfusions or therapy with iron injection or intravenous iron therapy. These are treatments that take place in a hospital.
Overall, families dealing with iron deficiencies may benefit from the help of a pediatric dietitian to improve the dietary intake of iron-containing food. Vitamin C can also help improve absorption of iron – so this supplement could be valuable in conjunction with iron-rich foods.