Iron and Iron Deficiency

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Who is most at risk for iron deficiency?

  • Young children and pregnant women are at higher risk of iron deficiency because of rapid growth and higher iron needs.
  • Adolescent girls and women of childbearing age are at risk due to menstruation.
  • Among children, iron deficiency is seen most often between six months and three years of age due to rapid growth and inadequate intake of dietary iron. Infants and children at highest risk are the following groups:
    • Babies who were born early or small.
    • Babies given cow's milk before age 12 months.
    • Breastfed babies who after age 6 months are not being given plain, iron-fortified cereals or another good source of iron from other foods.
    • Formula-fed babies who do not get iron-fortified formulas.
    • Children aged 1–5 years who get more than 24 ounces of cow, goat, or soymilk per day. Excess milk intake can decrease your child's desire for food items with greater iron content, such as meat or iron fortified cereal.
    • Children who have special health needs, for example, children with chronic infections or restricted diets.

Signs and Symptoms of Iron Deficiency

Too little iron can impair body functions, but most physical signs and symptoms do not show up unless iron deficiency anemia occurs. Someone with early stages of iron deficiency may have no signs or symptoms. This is why it is important to screen for too little iron among high risk groups.

Signs of iron deficiency anemia include12

  • Feeling tired and weak
  • Decreased work and school performance
  • Slow cognitive and social development during childhood
  • Difficulty maintaining body temperature
  • Decreased immune function, which increases susceptibility to infection
  • Glossitis (an inflamed tongue)
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