Good morning doctor, I want to be an Iron Man. (a common dialogue by young patients)
So you want to be Iron Man, huh? That's a pretty tall order. But if you're determined to build a suit of armour and shoot fire out of your hands, we're here to help.
Then is the turn of the parents. Mostly two types of questions are common-
Hey doctor, my kid is active and has a good diet, does he need an iron supplement?
That depends on his daily activity & and indications like increased tiredness, more irritability, less appetite, hair fall, pain in legs, slow growth, sleepiness etc. An important symptom is PICA, habit of eating dirt, crayon, hair grass etc. Iron deficiency may occur even with a good diet
Doctor, we are a vegetarian family. I heard my children might need Iron supplements.
Iron is an important nutrient and because vegetarians can be at risk of deficiency, the IAP (Indian Academy of Pediatrics) has recommended Iron supplements for children.
The need for iron supplementation in children can be due to factors like poor dietary intake, underlying medical needs, certain medications and, of course, for healthy growth and development of young bodies. Since growth requires extra energy reserves, supplemental iron can help them stay strong and energised.
I usually recommend a yearly test of Iron levels in all children to be sure
3. The next question is when and how to give IRON to children
The IAP & ICMR recommends that iron supplementation is to be started after 1 year of life for all Indian children. It should be given for
3 months every year to all children.
In boys till 18 years of age and in girls life long (because of menstruation)
4. Can we supplement with diet?
Ideally, children old enough to eat solid foods should be obtaining most of the vitamins and minerals they need through their diet. Unfortunately, allergies, food intolerances, picky eating, and plant-based diets may make it difficult for children to achieve their recommended daily values through meals.
5. Why is Iron so important?
70% of Indian children are Iron deficient.
Iron helps not only in growth & development of children, it helps the metabolism by transporting oxygen to all body parts. What most people don't know is,
Iron helps in the cognitive brain development of the child, power of brain to learn & process
6. How to choose the right iron supplement for children
There are three parameters that help in choosing -
Effectivity - ask your doctor or learn which iron supplement has a record of increasing iron in kids
Safe - Most iron supplements can cause constipation & metallic teeth.
Tasty - This ideally should be the first criterion in kids. To give any supplement for 3 months every year, the child needs to find it tasty
Iron deficiency has been labelled as a big cause of concern by the Indian govt.
Some children, like children on vegan or vegetarian diets and menstruating young women, will likely need iron supplementation more than other children.
If you’ve identified your child as being at risk for iron deficiency, there’s a decent chance that your concerns are correct. Just be sure to speak to your paediatrician about your child’s concerns.