A measurement called iron saturation (serum iron/TIBC) often can show whether the child has enough iron in the body.
Since children only absorb a small amount of the iron they eat, most children need to have 8 to 10 mg of iron per day.
Eating healthy foods is the most important way to prevent and treat iron deficiency. Good sources of iron include:
Chicken, turkey, fish, and other meats
Dried beans, lentils, and soybeans
Raisins and prunes
Spinach, kale and other greens
If a healthy diet does not prevent or treat your child's low iron level and anemia, the doctor will likely recommend iron supplements for your child. These are taken by mouth.
Do not give your child iron supplements or vitamins with iron without checking with your child's doctor. The doctor will prescribe the right kind of supplement for your child. If your child takes too much iron, it can cause poisoning.
With treatment, the outcome is likely to be good. In most cases, the blood counts will return to normal in 2 months. It is important that the doctor find the cause of your child's iron deficiency.
Anemia caused by a low iron level can affect a child's ability to learn in school. A low iron level can cause decreased attention span, reduced alertness, and learning problems in children.
A low iron level can cause the body to absorb too much lead.
Eating healthy foods is the most important way to prevent and treat iron deficiency.
Baker RD. Greer FR, American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. Clinical report -- diagnosis and prevention of iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia in infants and young children (0-3 years of age). Pediatrics. 2010;doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-2576.
Lerner NB, Sills R. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW III, et al., eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 449.
Sameer Patel, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.