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When Your Child Has Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Children with iron-deficiency anemia have a lower level of iron in their bodies than normal. This causes them to have a lower number of red blood cells (RBCs) than normal. RBCs are important because they help carry oxygen throughout the body. If not treated, iron-deficiency anemia can affect your child’s growth and development. The doctor will evaluate your child and recommend treatment.

What Causes Iron-Deficiency Anemia?

  • A low-iron diet

  • A diet that is too rich in milk or dairy products

  • A digestive problem that affects iron absorption

  • Lead poisoning

  • Menstruation (girls only)

What Are the Symptoms of Iron-Deficiency Anemia?

Your child may have no symptoms at all. If symptoms are present, they can include:

  • Pale skin, lips, and hands

  • Low energy and tiredness

  • Pica (the tendency to eat non-food items such as chalk, clay, or paper) Beans, soybeans, tofu, green leafy vegetables, yams, raisins, chicken, beef.

How Is Iron-Deficiency Anemia Diagnosed?

The doctor asks about your child’s symptoms, diet, and health history. A physical exam is performed on your child. The doctor will then order lab tests, such as a complete blood cell count, to learn more about your child’s problem.

How Is Iron-Deficiency Anemia Treated?

  • The doctor may prescribe oral iron supplements to increase the iron in your child’s diet. It may take 1–3 months for your child’s RBC count to return to normal. DO NOT give your child iron supplements without a doctor’s supervision. Too much iron can lead to serious health problems in your child.

  • You may need to give your child more foods that are rich in iron. This includes beef, fish, chicken, raisins, dried fruits, sweet potatoes, greens, beans, or peanut butter.

  • If your child’s RBC count is very low, blood transfusions may be needed.

How Is Iron-Deficiency Anemia Prevented?

  • Make sure your child has a well-balanced diet with foods rich in iron.

  • If your child is formula-fed, ask your doctor to recommend iron-rich formulas. These can help with growth and development. Also ask about iron-rich baby foods for when your child is ready to eat solids.


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