Iron deficiency is common in children, according to the Linus Pauling Institute, and feeding your child a multivitamin with iron can fight a nutrient deficiency. However, the iron in multivitamin supplements can pose a health risk if your child accidentally takes too much. If you're interested in vitamin and iron supplements for your child, make sure you consult a doctor first.
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Importance of Iron
Iron makes up an essential part of any diet, and it's especially important for growing kids. Rapidly growing tissues need oxygen to be able to function and grow properly, and by helping red blood cells function properly, iron helps supply this oxygen. Low iron causes anemia, which reduces oxygen flow throughout the body and can cause developmental delays in children and adolescents. Children with low iron levels can face difficulty in school because anemia makes it hard to concentrate.
Uses for Iron-Containing Supplements
A multivitamin with iron can help ensure that growing kids get all the iron they need for healthy development. It can keep iron levels where they need to be, preventing anemia before it develops. Children who live in poverty or who recently immigrated to America might especially benefit from supplements because they face a higher risk of iron deficiency, notes the NYU Langone Medical Center. Adolescent girls might also benefit from supplements because menstruation increases the need for iron.
Downsides and Risks
While iron is essential to good health, iron-containing supplements are highly toxic if taken at too high a dose. Iron toxicity can cause abdominal distress and quickly evolve into a medical emergency, resulting in low blood pressure, difficulty breathing, coma and even death. Even if the toxicity is not fatal, it can cause serious organ damage, including consequences to the liver, stomach and brain. Because of the risk of an accidental overdose, you should never give a child iron-containing supplements except under the supervision of a doctor.
You can fight an iron toxicity without risking an overdose by making sure that your child has plenty of iron in his diet. Lean cuts of beef -- including flank steak and lean ground beef -- come packed with heme iron, a type of iron that your child can easily absorb.Chicken, turkey, shrimp and salmon also offer heme iron. Plants contain nonheme iron, a form of iron less easily absorbed. Iron-rich plants include fortified oatmeal, soybeans, black beans and bread. Make sure your child follows a varied diet that includes fruits and vegetables at every meal. Not only does produce offer nutritional value, its vitamin C content supports nonheme iron absorption.