d.). According to Brody (2008), “Babies are born with about 500 milligrams (mg) of iron in their bodies. By the time they reach adulthood they need to have about 5,000 mg.”
Tympa-Psirropoulou et al. (2008) outline the three stages during which iron deficiency anemia develops in infants. First, iron stores in the body become gradually depleted. “Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in blood,” (Brody 2008). This first stage is sometimes called the pre-latent iron deficiency stage. The second stage is the latent iron deficiency stage, at which “the level of serum iron starts decreasing in parallel with an offsetting increase in siderophylin synthesis,” (Tympa-Psirropoulou et al. 2008). Finally, the third stage is full onset iron deficiency anemia.
Once iron deficiency anemia has been identified in the infant, the problem can be corrected by careful supplementation. If the infant is being breast fed, the mother may need to increase her intake of dietary iron by consuming iron-rich foods such as “raisins, meats (especially liver), fish, poultry, egg yolks, legumes (peas and beans), and whole-grain bread,” (Brody 2008). Dairy product intake should be minimized, because milk interferes with iron absorption in the mother as well as the baby. Iron supplements may also be indicated, especially for breastfeeding mothers “because diet alone rarely supplies the needed amount,” (Brody 2008). The infant diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia should be given breast milk as well as infant formula specially designed to include iron supplements. Prune juice and infant cereals are also recommended, but cows milk is to be avoided.
Fatigue is the most noticeable symptom of iron deficiencies among any population, including infants. However, symptoms of iron deficiency anemia in infants aged 12-24 months are often unrecognizable. It is for this reason that blood tests are essential. One of the most devastating effects of iron deficiency anemia in infants aged 12-24 months is lead poisoning. “Iron deficiency can also cause the body to absorb more lead, which increases the risk of lead poisoning in kids, especially those living in older homes.
The combination of IDA and lead poisoning can make kids very ill and can put them at risk for learning and behavioral problems,” (KidsHealth n.d.). As Marotz points out, iron deficiency anemia even without lead poisoning is implicated in cognitive and learning disorders. Iron deficiency anemia “can result in a diminished alertness that affects their safety and ability to learn, fatigue, and loss of appetite,” (Marotz 2009, p. 12).
Iron deficiency anemia is a preventable problem, especially among infants aged 12-24. Ample research shows that early detection via blood screening is the only sure way to test whether an infant has iron deficiency anemia or is at risk, because simply surveying the parental dietary history is not a good indicator (Bogen, Duggan, Dover, & Wilson 1999). Breast feeding and avoiding cows milk are the two most important preventative measures, whereas dietary iron supplementation and the cutting out of dairy products remain the most sensible interventions.
Bogen, D.L., Duggan, a.K., Dover, G.J., & Wilson, M.H. (1999). Screening for Iron Deficiency Anemia by Dietary History in a High-Risk Population. PEDIATRICS Vol. 105 No. 6 June 2000, pp. 1254-1259. Retrieved online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/105/6/1254
Brody, J.E. (2008) “Iron Deficiency Anemia – Children.” New York Times: Health Guide. Retrieved online: http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/iron-deficiency-anemia-children/overview.html
“Iron deficiency anemia – children,” (n.d.). MedlinePlus. Retrieved online: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007134.htm
KidsHealth (n.d.). Iron-deficient anemia. Retrieved online: http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/heart/ida.html
Marotz, L.R. (2009). Health, Safety, and Nutrition for the Young Child. 7th Edition. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar.
Tympa-Psirropoulou, E., Vagenas C, Dafni, O, Matala a, & Skopouli F. (2008). Environmental risk factors for iron deficiency anemia in children 12-24 months old in the area of Thessalia in Greece. Hippokratia 12(4):240-250..