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IDA– Everything You Need To Know

Posted on 10th July 2019 | General Health

About 5% of the Earth's crust is comprised of iron and iron is, by mass, the most common element on Earth. Despite this abundance, iron deficiency is relatively common among humans. In fact, it is the most common cause of anemia in the world. Human beings need to consume iron in order to meet their daily iron needs. When the balance between the quantity of iron consumed, the amount of iron stored in the body, and the body's iron loss fails to support Red Blood Cell (RBC) production, it results Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA). 1

Large quantities of iron are used by our body's RBCs to produce hemoglobin, the protein responsible for helping RBCs carry oxygen to different parts of our body. Before developing anemia, a person's iron stores (iron present in his or her body) are reduced or lost. This makes dietary iron and RBC-recycled iron important in helping meet the iron demands of the RBC production process. If, however this loss of iron continues, the resulting RBCs will have lesser hemoglobin. 1

Effective and low-cost treatments to fully reverse IDA very much exists. Yet, IDA continues to be the world's most common nutritional disorder. 30-50% of anemia in children is attributed to IDA. So, how do you as a parent, recognize whether your child has IDA? It is quite easy to miss the symptoms as these symptoms are commonly seen in other common conditions.

Causes of IDA in Kids 1 3 4

Children today are not consuming adequately nutritious diets. In fact, the most common cause of IDA is poor intake of dietary iron coupled with:

  • Rapid growth: Children are in the exponential phase of growth and development and require more iron to support this growth. Failure to meet these increased demands may result in IDA.
  • Low birth weight (< 2500 grams): Such babies are at an increased risk of iron deficiency and thus IDA
  • Gastrointestinal Iron Loss: Drinking cow's milk may not be the best idea for your child. Chronic blood loss may be observed and is related to heat sensitive components in cow's milk. Additionally, absorption of iron fromcow's milk is far lower than that frombreastmilk.
  • Diet and Malabsorption of Iron: Inadequate consumption of iron-rich foods and the gut's reduced ability to absorb iron play a vital role in the development of IDA.

Recognizing IDA

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms below are common indicatorsof iron deficiency. Should you observe these in your child, then it could be IDA.

  • Fatigue and/or pale skin
  • Behavioral problems: Is your child suddenly showing a change for the bad in his or her behavior?
  • Suffering from frequent infections
  • Cravings for non-nutritive substances like dirt (Pica)
  • Poor appetite
  • Unusual rapid breathing
  • Slowing down in the rate of growth and development

    If you notice these symptoms in your child, he or she may be suffering from IDA. It is best to visit a healthcare specialist to get a confirmation. Remember, iron deficiency and the resulting anemia are curable and reversible through a healthy diet and iron supplementation.

    Preventing and Treatment of IDA in Toddlers

  • Prevention 6
    Historically speaking, the prevention of anemia has always focused on the first year of a child's life. However, now more and more attention is being focused on older childrenas well. The reason being the increased prevalence of iron deficiency in kids aged 1-3 years is more than previously believed. Additionally, the risk of developmental effects from iron deficiency makes it imperative to pay closer attention to the iron needs in children.
    Here are some of the measures you can take to keep IDA away from your toddler:
    • Limit their intake of cow's milk to less than 710 mL/day (24 oz/day)
    • Feed them a diverse diet rich in iron and vitamin C
    • Pick iron fortified cereal
    • Stop excessive juice intake
    • Give them an iron-containing vitamin
    • Get them screened for IDA (between 15-18 months and at 24 months)
  • Treatment 7
    IDA is reversible and luckily the treatment is low in cost. While iron deficiency and IDA cannot be reversed overnight, there are plenty of options available:
    • Iron supplements:In the form of tablets, powders, and liquids are available. Iron supplementation can help replenish your iron stores and restore your iron levels. Supplements may have to be taken for several months however, which has traditionally been a problem since most supplements are not very unpalatable there are tasty powdered forms available that your child just won't be able to say no to.
    • Diet: Red meat, dried fruits, nuts, fortified cereal, dark green leafy veggies, and nuts are iron rich foods that can help treat or prevent IDA
    • Vitamin C: This handy vitamin (think orange juice) helps in better absorption of iron. Iron supplements can be taken along with a glass of citrus juice.

IDA is a highly prevalent condition with children being specifically at risk of developing it. Regular screening, an iron rich diet, and iron supplements are means to keep IDA at bay. Monitor your child's iron needs and take steps to help their body meet them.


1 Miller JL.IDA: a common and curable disease.Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2013 Jul 1;3(7).

2 World Health Organization 2007. Conclusions and recommendations of the WHO consultation on prevention and control of iron deficiency in infants and young children in malaria-endemic areas. Food Nutr Bull 28: S621–S627

3 Özdemir N.IDAfrom diagnosis to treatment in children.Turk Pediatri Ars. 2015 Mar 1;50(1):11-9. doi: 10.5152/tpa.2015.2337. eCollection 2015 Mar. Review.

4 Springer. (2017, September 27). Iron supplements have long-term benefits for low birth-weight babies: Follow-up study finds early iron intervention can lower levels of aggression and rule-breaking behavior in children age 7. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 9, 2019 from

5 Is your child getting enough iron? (2019, February 19). Retrieved from

6Kazal LA. Prevention of Iron Deficiency in Infants and Toddlers. Am Fam Physician. 2002 Oct 1;66(7):1217-1225.

7Iron Deficiency Anemia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & More. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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