Iron deficiency in children: Prevention tips for parents
Iron deficiency in children can affect development and lead to anemia. Find out how much iron your child needs, the best sources of iron and more.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Is your child getting enough iron in his or her diet? Find out what causes iron deficiency in children, how to recognize it and how to prevent it.
Why is iron important for children?
Iron is a nutrient that's essential to your child's growth and development. Iron helps move oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and helps muscles store and use oxygen. If your child's diet lacks iron, he or she might develop a condition called iron deficiency.
Iron deficiency in children can occur at many levels, from depleted iron stores to anemia — a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. Untreated iron deficiency can affect a child's growth and development.
How much iron do children need?
Babies are born with iron stored in their bodies, but a steady amount of additional iron is needed to fuel a child's rapid growth and development. Here's a guide to iron needs at different ages:
||Recommended amount of iron a day
|7 - 12 months
|1 - 3 years
|4 - 8 years
|9 - 13 years
|14 - 18 years, girls
|14 - 18 years, boys
What are the risk factors for iron deficiency in children?
Infants and children at highest risk of iron deficiency include:
- Babies who are born prematurely — more than three weeks before their due date — or have a low birth weight
- Babies who drink cow's milk or goat's milk before age 1
- Breast-fed babies who aren't given complementary foods containing iron after age 6 months
- Babies who drink formula that isn't fortified with iron
- Children ages 1 to 5 who drink more than 24 ounces (710 milliliters) of cow's milk, goat's milk or soy milk a day
- Children who have certain health conditions, such as chronic infections or restricted diets
- Children ages 1 to 5 who have been exposed to lead
Adolescent girls also are at higher risk of iron deficiency because their bodies lose iron during menstruation.
Nov. 29, 2016
See more In-depth
- Mahoney DH. Iron deficiency in infants and young children: Screening, prevention, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 7, 2016.
- What is iron-deficiency anemia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ida/. Accessed Nov. 7, 2016.
- Iron in foods: Does my child get enough? U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/Nibbles_Newsletter_23.pdf. Accessed Nov. 8, 2016.
- Mahoney DH. Iron deficiency in infants and young children: Treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 7, 2016.
- Iron. National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/. Accessed Nov. 8, 2016.