Iron is crucial to the development of children and adolescents. As their brains and bodies develop quickly, it’s important to provide them with proper nutrients, including iron.
Without enough iron, we cannot make hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Iron is essential for delivering oxygen to all of our tissues and cells so that they can produce energy.
Why Is Iron Important for Children?
In the first few years of a child’s life, the brain develops rapidly to form about 86 billion nerve cells, along with the network that supports those nerves. To accomplish this task, a child’s metabolism runs at full speed, and the energy to support that metabolism is dependent upon iron.
As the brain develops, physical growth also occurs: Cells divide to reproduce and create new tissues. Cell division is dependent upon the iron in red blood cells. Without proper iron levels, this cell division cannot take place at the proper rate.
Once children reach the pre-teen and teenage years, iron remains important for continued growth. In fact, as hormonal changes begin in the body, adolescents’ need for iron can often be several times higher than that of adults.
Can My Child Get Enough Iron From Their Diet or Do They Need an Iron Supplement?
If your child regularly eats a balanced, healthy diet, they most likely are getting enough iron from their food and don’t need an iron supplement. In fact, food is considered the best natural source of iron.
However, many children tend to be picky eaters, making it challenging for them to get adequate amounts of iron from their diet alone.
Combine an increased need for iron with a diet that is often less than balanced and it’s no surprise that many pre-teens and teens are tired and moody. What is thought to be a “puberty symptom” may, in fact, be a sign of low iron.
Foods High in Iron to Reduce the Risk of Iron Deficiency Anemia
Although iron can be obtained through different types of foods, many people struggle to get adequate amounts of iron just from their diet.
Here is a list of iron-rich foods that you can include in your child’s diet to help ensure that they are getting an adequate iron supply:
- Brown rice
- Spinach and other dark leafy greens, such as kale
- Fortified cereals or oatmeal
- Fortified orange juice
Meat is considered an ideal source of heme iron, which is the most easily absorbed iron source by the body. Plants provide non-heme iron, which is also absorbed by the body, but not as easily as heme iron.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency in Children and Adults
As detailed above, iron plays a vital role in overall health and well-being. If you believe your child may not be getting enough iron from their diet, here are some signs and symptoms of iron deficiency to be on the lookout for:
- Low energy during the menstrual cycle
- Pale, dry skin and mucous membranes
- Cracked corners of the mouth
- Brittle nails and hair, including hair loss
- Decreased memory, attention, and learning performance
Children at Increased Risk for Iron Deficiency
Some children are at a higher risk overall for iron deficiency and may benefit from taking an iron supplement.* The following are characteristics of children who may be in this higher risk group for low iron levels:
- Premature infants or low birth weight children
- Children born to mothers with iron deficiency issues
- Children following a vegetarian or vegan diet
- Picky eaters that are not regularly eating iron-rich foods
- Children, pre-teens, and young teenagers going through puberty or rapid growth spurts
- Medical conditions that prevent the absorption of nutrients
- Young athletes and/or children, pre-teens, and teenagers that exercise often and vigorously
- Pre-teens or teenage girls who experience heavy blood loss during menstruation
Iron Deficiency and Infants
To prevent iron deficiency anemia in infants, you should feed your baby breast milk or iron-fortified formula for their first year, as cow's milk isn't a good source of iron for babies. After their first six months, it is recommended to start feeding your baby iron-fortified cereals or pureed meats at least twice a day to help boost their iron intake.
Iron Supplements for Children
If you think your child has low iron, please consult with your doctor first before adding any iron supplements to their wellness routine or making changes to their diet.
Your doctor may recommend that you have your child’s iron levels tested via blood testing. This testing can verify if they are in fact iron deficient and in need of supplementation, and if so, the appropriate dose of iron they should be taking in supplement form to help return their iron levels to a healthy range.*
If your child is low on iron and in need of supplementation, their doctor may prescribe a specific amount to use for a limited time period. While iron deficiency has detrimental effects on the body, the reverse is also true, as too much iron can cause health issues and make your child feel unwell.
Advantages of Floradix® Iron Supplements for Children
Iron supplements may help those experiencing iron deficiency by supporting the formation of healthy red blood cells.* For decades, parents have trusted Floradix iron supplements for their children, as they are gentle to digest and easily absorbed, which is why Floradix produces the best-selling natural liquid iron supplement in the US today.*
Floradix iron supplements also offer these additional benefits:
- Free of artificial additives, synthetic preservatives, alcohol, and lactose
- Kosher, non-GMO, and vegetarian
- Environmentally friendly packaging
- Available in multiple formats to fit your family’s lifestyle, including liquids, tablets, and a vegan, yeast-free, and gluten-free formula