Iodine is a chemical element necessary for proper body and brain functioning. Specifically, iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormone. The body does not make iodine, therefore it is necessary for children and pregnant mothers to consume iodine in their diets to prevent the development of conditions like hypothyroidism, goiter and pregnancy-related illnesses.
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Children who are iodine deficient to not consume enough iodine in their diets. Most food products in the United States do not label the amount of iodine on the package, thus making it difficult to assess how much iodine a child is consuming. Children can maintain an adequate amount of iodine by using iodized table salt in their diets. Other common sources of dietary iodine include breads, cheese, saltwater fish, cow's milk, eggs, shellfish, soy milk, ice cream, soy sauce and yogurt. The Institute of Medicine recommends an intake of between 110 and 130 mcg for infants up to 12 months old, 90 mcg for children between the ages of 1 and 8 years old and 120 mcg for children between the ages of 9 and 13.
Goiter is the enlargement of the thyroid gland as a result of iodine deficiency. The goiter continues to enlarge in an attempt to compensate for the large demand of thyroid hormone. Goiter appears a growth in the neck region and may contain nodules. Children with goiter may develop symptoms of choking or experience trouble swallowing and breathing.
Hypothyroidism is a condition defined by the thyroid gland's inability to produce essential hormones. Iodine is necessary to produce thyroid hormones, therefore an iodine deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism rarely causes symptoms in the early stages, but if left untreated it can cause a number of potentially serious health conditions. According to MayoClinic.com, symptoms associated with hypothyroidism include fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, a puffy face, hoarse voice, elevated blood cholesterol level, unexplained weight gain, muscle aches, stiffness or swelling in your joints, heavier than normal menstrual periods, brittle fingernails and hair, and depression.
Pregnancy Related Illness
Pregnant or nursing mothers who do not get enough iodine in their diets may experience miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery and congenital abnormalities in their babies. Children may later develop severe developmental problems such as mental retardation and problems with growth, hearing and speech. According to The American Thyroid Association, even a mild iodine deficiency in pregnant mothers may be associated with lowered intelligence in their children.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Iodine deficiency is measured as a median urinary iodine concentration of less than 50 mcg per liter in a population. There are no tests to determine if individual children have enough iodine in their bodies. Iodine deficiency is treated by incorporating sources of iodine into the child's diet or by taking multivitamins which contain iodine.