Dr. Atanas Banchev DM – pediatric hematologist at the Clinic for Pediatric Clinical Hematology and Oncology, Tsaritsa Joanna University Hospital – ISUL
Iron is an essential trace element for the human body and is particularly important for the development of babies. One of the main tasks of iron is the production of hemoglobin – the component of red blood cells that is responsible for the transport of oxygen in the body. Every cell in the body, no matter how small, needs oxygen to live, which is why hemoglobin and the iron needed to make it are so important.
The amount of iron each person needs depends on their age and body size, meaning that children need different amounts of iron at different stages of their development. Why do babies need more iron when they are around 6 months old? Babies are born with a store of iron that is used up slowly as they grow. This store of iron (glandular stores) is usually depleted around 6 months of age, meaning that babies need to get more iron from their food time. By this time, babies are getting enough iron from the depots. Pregnant women should always check their iron levels to make sure they have enough iron for themselves and their unborn child.
Around 6 months, when babies need more iron, they get it from solid food. Did you know that babies need more iron than their fathers? Due to rapid growth during the first year of life, babies consume iron much faster than adults. Babies aged 6-12 months need so much iron because of their rapid growth and development. Iron gives babies the energy they need and allows oxygen to be carried through red blood cells for normal growth and development. If your baby doesn’t get enough iron in his diet, he may develop iron deficiency. This, in turn, can mean that not enough oxygen is reaching the cells to ensure their adequate functioning.
Signs of iron deficiency in babies:
-Loss of appetite
-Lack of air
-Retardation of growth and development
If you think your child has an iron deficiency, you should see a pediatric hematologist. If he detects an iron deficiency, the hematologist will prescribe an iron preparation. Proferon contains easily absorbed ferrous iron in liquid form and has very good palatability, making it an easy choice from early childhood. Read more about Proferon sachets and Proferon for children.
Oral iron supplementation is effective in the majority of children with iron deficiency. Side effects may occur, but they are never dangerous. Detailed family education and information about possible side effects (constipation, initially known upper gastrointestinal irritation, tooth staining) are needed at the beginning of therapy to improve therapy acceptance.
Before starting oral iron therapy, the priority should be to correct the underlying nutritional problem, ie. to introduce solid food at the age of 6 months in breast-fed children and to reduce the intake of cow’s milk in older children. For adolescents, we recommend reducing the intake of black or iced tea, soft drinks or supplements of phytates, oxalates, etc. Pediatricians should be familiar with vegetarian/vegan diets and provide nutritional counseling when needed.