Side Effects of Liquid Iron

Iron is an essential mineral. Iron enables the blood to carry oxygen to the entire body. Iron deficiency causes a disorder known as anemia, which causes fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, decreased ability to concentrate, dizziness and a rapid heart rate. Common causes include heavy menstruation or other blood loss, inadequate iron in the diet, genetic diseases and certain medications. Iron can be supplemented using a liquid formula. However, iron is the leading cause of accidental poisoning in children and must be kept out of their reach.

Liquid iron preparations can stain the teeth. (Image: Scharvik/iStock/Getty Images)

Stained Teeth

Liquid iron can stain the teeth, a side effect not noted with other forms of iron supplementation. To prevent staining of the teeth from liquid iron, it should be mixed with water or juice. Using a straw can help keep liquid iron away from the teeth. If it is to be administered by dropper, it should be placed on the back of the tongue. Iron stains on the teeth are temporary and can usually be removed by brushing with baking soda or medicinal-strength hydrogen peroxide. Do not swallow hydrogen peroxide -- it can be lethal in large doses.

Changes in Bowel Movements

Common side effects when taking liquid iron, or any other form of iron supplementation, include constipation or diarrhea. Less common are stools that turn dark green or black, due to unabsorbed iron; this is a harmless side effect. Black stools can also result from bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract from a cause unrelated to iron -- see your doctor if you have black stools.

Increased Risk of Disease

Alcoholism, hemochromatosis, recurring blood transfusions, as well as excessive iron supplementation are common causes of excess iron. Excess iron in the body may cause heart disease by damaging arteries that supply blood to the heart. Excessive iron in the body has also been linked to an increased risk of infection, cancer, diabetes, worsening of rheumatoid arthritis, Huntington's disease and systemic lupus erythematosus. Iron supplements should not be taken by those who are not deficient.

Warning

Too much iron can cause iron toxicity. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. These symptoms typically develop within 30 minutes to 6 hours after ingestion. Excessive fluid loss from these side effects can lead to shock. In large doses, iron is toxic to heart muscle. Iron toxicity may also cause death. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms.

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