Do Kids need Iron Supplements? When and Why?

Iron deficiency is one of the most common deficiency diseases found in children in India. Children of all ages can be Iron deficient. And iron deficiency can have devastating short-term and long-term consequences. Iron deficiency often goes unrecognized and untreated because of lack of awareness on the part of the parents. And this is extremely unfortunate because iron supplements can easily remedy this.

How do you know that your child is iron deficient?

Iron deficiency develops slowly and does not cause a drastic symptom like fever. Because of this parents often do not suspect Iron deficiency for several months and even years. The child is not taking to the doctor on time, the deficiency is not treated and progresses and becomes worse.

The actual clinical symptoms of Iron deficiency are difficult to identify without training and experience. However, there are some things that should tell parents that their child may be iron deficient.

 Also read Iron Deficiency Anemia – what parents should know

One of the most tell-tale signs of Iron deficiency anemia is a sudden sharp drop in academic performance.

Suspect Iron deficiency if  –

  1. Your child suddenly starts performing poorly in subjects that require logical thinking – like Maths
  2. Your child frequently complains that he/she is too tired to study
  3. Your child is unable to sit and focus on studies for a reasonable amount of time
  4. Your child is cranky and uncooperative while doing tasks

Detailed article continues below the video



How does Iron deficiency affect school performance?

Iron is required for brain growth, IQ, memory, recognition, focus, concentration and attention. Iron deficiency impacts all of these and thereby affects learning

A child with iron deficiency is tired and inattentive and is unable to rapidly grasp concepts that are taught

An iron deficient child also falls sick more often and is likely to miss out on several school days meaning that his/her learning will lag behind others in the class

Also read 4 ways to help your child get good marks in exams

What are the symptoms of iron deficiency in children?

The clinical signs of anaemia that doctors usually use to suspect anaemia are

  1. Pale lips
  2. Pale tongue
  3. Pale palms
  4. When deficiency is severe deformities of the nails and fainting episodes may be seen

When a blood test is done – iron deficiency anemia is also obvious in the low hemoglobin values on blood test.

Does my child need an iron supplement?

If you think your child has iron deficiency anemia – take your child to the doctor immediately.

The doctor will look for the clinical signs of anemia mentioned above and if he/she sees them – will then ask for a haemoglobin test to confirm the diagnosis.

If the hemoglobin is lower than what is expected for the age of the child – the doctor will prescribe iron capsules or tablets or syrup

How much Iron does a child need?

A newborn baby usually has sufficient iron. The stores last the newborn baby for the first six months of life

After that the iron requirements are as follows –

From 6 months to 1 year – babies need 11 milligrams of iron per day.

From 1–3 years of age – toddlers need 7 milligrams of iron each day.

From 4–8 years of age – children need 10 milligrams of iron per day

From 9–13 years of age – children need 8 milligrams of iron per day

Pre adolescent and adolescent boys need 11 milligrams of iron per day

Pre teen and teen girls need 15 milligrams of iron per day

It is important to try to supply as much iron to the child in the diet as possible. But in some cases where children are growing rapidly especially in the pre teen and teen years – they may require iron supplementation. Girls may suddenly become iron deficient when they begin menstruating and may require iron supplements at this time

What are the iron rich Indian foods?

Green leafy vegetables like Spinach, Fenugreek, Amaranth

Other vegetables like drumsticks, beans

Amla – Indian goose berry

Ragi and other millets

Pulses – Moong dal, Masoor dal, Soya beans, Chickpeas, Kidney beans

Dry fruits – Raisins, Apricots, Dates, Figs

Nuts and seeds – Almonds Walnuts Cashews, Peanuts

Seeds – Sunflower seeds Flax seeds Sesame seeds


Meat fish poultry

Do children need Iron supplement?

Yes they may require Iron supplement if it is recommended by your doctor. Reach out to your doctor if you see that your child is suddenly doing poorly in academics and is constantly complaining of feeling tired

When do children require Iron supplements?

Children may require Iron supplements any time after 6 months of age. The most critical period is during adolescence. And when girls start menstruating.

Why do children require Iron supplements?

Children require iron supplements because iron is an important component of each new cell that is added to the child’s body as the child grows

Read more on Iron supplementation guidelines in India here

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