Get answers to your child's growth, nutrition, and feeding behavior questions.
Anemia - iron deficiency - children
Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells bring oxygen to body tissues.
There are many types of anemia. Iron deficiency anemia is a decrease in the number of red blood cells in the blood due to a lack of iron.
This article focuses on iron deficiency anemia in children.
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia. You get iron through certain foods, and your body also reuses iron from old red blood cells.
Iron deficiency (too little iron) may be caused by:
Babies are born with iron stored in their bodies. Because they grow rapidly, infants and children need to absorb an average of 1 mg of iron per day.
Since children only absorb about 10% of the iron they eat, most children need to receive 8-10 mg of iron per day. Breastfed babies need less, because iron is absorbed 3 times better when it is in breast milk.
Cow' s milk is a common cause of iron deficiency. It contains less iron than many other foods and also makes it more difficult for the body to absorb iron from other foods. Cow's milk also can cause the intestines to lose small amounts of blood.
The risk of developing iron deficiency anemia is increased in:
Iron deficiency anemia most commonly affects babies 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.
Iron deficiency in children also can be related to lead poisoning.
Glader B. Iron-deficiency anemia. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 455.
Heird WC. The feeding of infants and children. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th Ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 42.
O'Connor NR. Infant formula. Am Fam Physician. 2009;79:565-570.
© 2011 University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). All rights reserved.
UMMC is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System,
22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. TDD: 1-800-735-2258 or 1.866.408.6885