Zinc is an essential mineral that your toddler needs for immunity, protein synthesis, wound healing and DNA. It is also vital for healthy growth and development through the childhood years. Including foods that contain zinc is the best way to cover your toddler's needs, which are 3 mg per day for toddlers ages 1 to 3. Problems in the toddler years and in the future may arise due to a zinc deficiency.
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Toddlers who don't get enough zinc may exhibit failure to thrive, appetite loss and poor immunity. Severe cases may produce hair loss, diarrhea, weight loss, poor wound healing, mental problems, trouble tasting and skin conditions. If you are concerned, your toddler's pediatrician will perform a simple blood test to check her zinc levels and may prescribe a supplement if they are lower than normal.
A zinc deficiency is rare in America, but if it appears in your toddler, it is most likely due to an inadequate amount in her diet. Malabsorption or gastrointestinal disorders, such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease, may also cause a zinc deficiency at this age. Toddlers who suffer from sickle cell anemia are also at a higher risk of being zinc deficient. Since zinc is found in many types of meat and animal products, a toddler who follows a vegetarian diet may develop a zinc deficiency due to the exclusion of these foods.
A zinc deficiency is typically treated by increasing your toddler's intake with dietary changes and may also include a daily supplement. Foods that contain zinc include beef, chicken, pork, crab, baked beans, yogurt, oatmeal, cheese, peas, nut butters, milk and wheat germ. If you toddler is a picky eater or doesn't eat a lot of food, her doctor may suggest supplementation.
Left untreated, a toddler's zinc deficiency may result in several issues now and as he gets older. Growth retardation may occur, which is a condition that is characterized by abnormal patterns of growth in height and weight. Delays in motor development and a poor attention span are conditions that are associated with low zinc intake among children; they may be present from an early age or may appear when your toddler enters school. Delayed sexual maturation and impotence may also occur in later years. The lowered immune function that occurs with a zinc deficiency means your toddler may get sick more often and may have trouble recovering as quickly as he would otherwise.