The comic and cartoon character Popeye has probably made a contribution to making children more willing to eat spinach. Although the vegetable does not give you superpowers, it does increase iron absorption. And this is especially important when considering how common iron deficiency is in children. An expert explains which symptoms can be used to recognize this deficiency.
The pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. In a recent article from the renowned Cleveland Clinic (USA), Kadakkal Radhakrishnan explains what iron is, how much your child needs daily and how an iron deficiency can be recognized.
What is iron and why is it important?
Iron (Fe) is a mineral that our bodies need to grow, develop and produce a substance called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that the body uses to transport oxygen throughout the body.
Our iron levels are determined by our diet. There are a plethora of different foods that contain this important mineral (including spinach). When we consume more than we need, our body stores the excess for later use. An iron deficiency can essentially have two causes:
You don’t absorb enough iron to maintain your supply.
Something happens that causes your body to use more iron from your stores than it normally would.
If you are not getting the iron you need, you have low hemoglobin. This basically means that there isn’t as much oxygen circulating in your blood as there should be. Although the symptoms are often subtle, they can slowly but surely add up to some pretty unpleasant health problems. Later more.
How much iron do children need?
The amount of iron a child needs to consume per day depends on whether they have dietary restrictions or not. The iron contained in meat, fish and poultry (heme iron) can be absorbed more easily by the body than iron from plant sources (non-heme iron).
The German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends that young people and adults should consume between 10 and 15 mg and children between 8 and 10 mg of iron per day.
“Iron is essential for your child’s development, and iron deficiency can affect your child’s health and growth – and even lead to anemia,” warns Dr. Radhakrishnan.
Good sources of iron include red muscle meat or liver. Good plant sources of iron include legumes such as lentils or soybeans, nuts and seeds such as pistachios or sunflower seeds, vegetables and herbs such as watercress, parsley or onions.
Causes of iron deficiency in children
According to Dr. According to Radhakrishnan, iron deficiency is relatively common in children. It usually occurs for four main reasons:
Poor diet: Children are at higher risk of iron deficiency because they need more of it than adults. But don’t overdo it with the milk! A diet containing too much milk can increase a child’s risk of iron deficiency.
Rapid Growth: Children’s growth can be unpredictable and almost comically fast! If your child is in the middle of a growth spurt, he or she will need additional iron in his or her diet.
Blood loss: In some cases, blood loss is obvious, such as when a child begins menstruation or suffers a serious injury. However, it also often happens that blood loss goes unnoticed. Inflammatory bowel disease, parasitic infections and ulcers are just a few examples of diseases that can lead to blood loss and therefore iron deficiency.
Inability to absorb enough iron from food: This can occur in conditions such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.
13 symptoms of iron deficiency in children
Low iron levels affect the body in many different ways, meaning there are many different symptoms to watch out for. According to Dr. Radhakrishnan all point out a defect:
- Fatigue and general lack of energy
- Loss of appetite
- Eating non-food items (Pica)
- Irritability or excitement
- Pale skin
- Brittle nails
- Cold feet and hands
- Torn corners of the mouth
- Red, sore or swollen tongue
- Rapid breathing and/or shortness of breath
- Fast heartbeat
If your child has several of these symptoms, it’s time to see a pediatrician. If iron deficiency is diagnosed, therapy should be started.
Iron deficiency is typically treated with iron supplements. Home remedies or over-the-counter nutritional supplements can also help with minor deficiency symptoms.
It usually takes three to six weeks for iron reserves to be restored, but depending on the severity of the deficiency, treatment can take up to three months.
Once your child’s iron levels are restored, the focus is on maintaining that condition.
“Vitamin C may also help improve iron absorption, so this supplement could be valuable in conjunction with iron-rich foods,” says Dr. Radhakrishnan.
Of course, diet is not always the cause of the problem. If it is determined that your child’s iron deficiency is due to an underlying medical condition, your doctor will either treat the iron deficiency themselves or refer your child to a specialist for further treatment. (ad)