Iron is a major mineral necessary for the health of any individual whether child or an adult. Iron is present in each red blood cell as hemoglobin. This carries oxygen from lungs to tissues which is necessary for them to function properly. Lack of iron or inadequate quantity of iron supply results in iron deficiency or anemia and is a very common nutritional deficiency in children in almost all parts of the globe.
The human body needs iron to produce haemoglobin. Inadequate supply of iron results in limiting the production of haemoglobin and consequent red blood cells production. This decreased quantity of red blood cells and haemoglobin in blood is called anaemia. Anaemia or iron deficiency does not develop instantly. In a healthy person first the process of iron depletion starts. At this stage the iron in the body is reduced, however the iron in red blood cells remains constant. If corrective steps are not taken it results in anaemia.
Several factors could be responsible for iron deficiency in children. These could be:
- Unbalanced diet or diet with insufficient quantity of iron.
- Poor absorption of iron by body.
- Blood loss, may be due to intestinal bleeding or menstruation in case of girls.
- Rapid growth of the child.
A diet with insufficient quantity of iron is a major cause of anaemia world wide. Due to poverty of parents children are unable to get a diet from which their body can absorb adequate quantity of iron. During the initial period of the growth cycle of an infant more iron is needed, children drinking formula milk get adequate quantity of iron as the milk is formulated to provide all inputs to the child. When the child starts cow milk, say after the age of 12 months, he may not get sufficient quantity of iron from milk. This could result in retardation of growth and, in acute cases the child may begin to suffer from learning and behaviour problems.
If the child is iron deficient he will look pale and sick and will develop signs of fatigue very fast even after short exercise of game, the appetite will decrease and he will get irritated quickly. If such behaviour is noticed in the child a visit to the doctor is necessary. After physical examination the doctor will suggest blood test of the child. A simple test of haemoglobin will tell about the existence of iron deficiency.
A child between the ages of 1 and 12 years every day need 7 to 10 milligrams of iron. Adolescent boys should get 11 milligrams of iron per day and adolescent girls need 15 milligrams of iron per day. The best source of iron for a kid of any age is natural produce. It is easy for the body to absorb iron from meat as compared to the plant food. Red meat, dark poultry, tuna and salmon fish, and eggs are a rich source of iron for non vegetarian kids. In case of vegetarians eating beans, peas, dry fruits, leafy vegetables and iron fortified breakfast cereals could fulfil the need of iron in the body.
In case of deficiency in addition to the food rich in iron, the doctor will suggest iron supplements available in the form of tablets and syrup. It is the duty of the parents to follow the instructions of the doctor properly and administer the desired dose at regular intervals. These supplements accompanied with proper diet will help remove deficiency fast and the child will have a normal development cycle. There is nothing much to worry if the precautions are taken during pregnancy and early childhood.