On this episode of Helwi El Hayet nutritionist Nicole Maftoum revealed that 40% of children in Lebanon suffer from iron deficiency. Listen to her advice to give your children a healthier lifestyle
What’s Iron Deficiency?
Iron deficiency (when the body’s iron stores are becoming depleted) can be a problem for some kids, particularly toddlers and teens (especially girls who have very heavy periods). In fact, many teenage girls are at risk for iron deficiency — even if they have normal periods — if their diets don’t contain enough iron to offset the loss of iron-containing RBCs during menstrual bleeding. Also, teen athletes lose iron through sweating and other routes during intense exercise.
After 12 months of age, toddlers are at risk for iron deficiency because they no longer drink iron-fortified formula and may not be eating iron-fortified infant cereal or enough other iron-containing foods to make up the difference.
What does iron deficiency do?
Iron deficiency can affect growth and may lead to learning and behavioral problems. And it can progress to iron-deficiency anemia (a decrease in the number of RBCs in the body).
Many people with iron-deficiency anemia don’t have any signs and symptoms because the body’s iron supply is depleted slowly. But as the anemia progresses, some of these symptoms may appear:
- fatigue and weakness
- pale skin and mucous membranes
- rapid heartbeat or a new heart murmur (detected in an exam by a doctor)
- decreased appetite
- dizziness or a feeling of being lightheaded
If your child has any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor, who might do a simple blood test to look for iron-deficiency anemia and may prescribe iron supplements. However, because excessive iron intake can also cause health problems, you should never give your child iron supplements without first consulting your doctor.
How Much Iron Do Children Need?
Children require different amounts of iron at various ages and stages. Here’s how much they should be getting as they grow:
- Infants who breastfeed tend to get enough iron from their mothers until 4-6 months of age, when iron-fortified cereal is usually introduced (although breastfeeding moms should continue to take prenatal vitamins). Formula-fed infants should receive iron-fortified formula.
- Infants ages 7-12 months need 11 milligrams of iron a day. Babies younger than 1 year should be given iron-fortified cereal in addition to breast milk or an infant formulasupplemented with iron.
- Toddlers need 7 milligrams of iron each day. Kids ages 4-8 years need 10 milligrams while older kids ages 9-13 years need 8 milligrams of iron each day.
Helwi El Hayet
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