Iron out-of Balance in Children






Iron out-of Balance in Children

Iron-Out-of-Balance™ in Children is a condition when iron is too high or too low for the child to develop, grow and live normally. In the first years of life the demand for iron is great because a child is growing rapidly.

Causes of Iron-Out-of-Balance™ in Children

Iron deficiency is the most common iron disorder in children. This can be caused by lead poisoning, nutritional deficiencies or disease (generally rare). Too much iron is also rare in children. Newborns and infants demonstrate very high levels of iron in blood tests at birth and this is normal. These babies were given a boost of iron right before birth to address the rapid brain development at birth.

As a child gets older, the demand for iron will increase. Insufficient iron in a child’s diet will eventually lead to a deficiency and supplemental iron may be needed. A pediatrician will prescribe and monitor this condition because a child deprived of iron during crucial periods of rapid growth the brain, muscles, bones, and vital organs may not develop as they should. However, a child given iron without proper supervision could be harmed.

Signs and symptoms of Iron-Out-of-Balance™ in Children

A parent or caregiver will notice changes in a young child who is iron deficient. The child might be fussy, not want to play or they may exhibit pica which is the behavior of eating non-food items. This might include eating dirt, hair, coins, paint, or as disturbing as it may sound, they might consume the feces of the family pet. Behavior such as this ought to be reported promptly to a pediatrician who can run tests to determine iron deficiency with or without anemia.

One easy way to check a child is to look at their eyes. If they are iron deficient, what should be white will have a bluish tint and the lower lid and inside of the mouth will be pale. The face will also be pale or ashen gray.

A young child with too much iron (iron overload) can be seen in diseases of the hemoglobin such as sickle cell disease, thalassemia, and the condition of neonatal hemochromatosis.

Juvenile hemochromatosis is an inherited condition that can result in early death by heart failure if not detected and treated. One clue for parents or caregivers is the cessation or lack of onset of menstruation for young girls. In males hypogonadism (small testicles) is an early sign.

Detection of Iron-Out-of-Balance™ Lab tests:

A pediatrician can take blood and confirm if your child has a possible iron imbalance. Generally a Complete Blood Count (CBC) is the first step, especially for very young children. This blood sample can be obtained by pipette and finger stick. CHr (hemoglobin reticulocyte content) is another helpful test for young children because this test can confirm iron deficiency in its very early stages.

A complete iron panel which presently consists of serum iron, total iron-binding capacity (TIBC,) and serum ferritin is an unlikely set of tests that a pediatrician will order because this requires blood drawn from a vein in the arm. As a child gets older and can tolerate blood taken this way, a pediatrician may choose to obtain a full iron panel, especially if hemoglobinapathies, or juvenile hemochromatosis is suspect.


Mother’s milk is the best source of iron for infants, but not all mom’s can nurse their children.   When the child develops teeth, the breast feeding can be limited or replaced with formulas that are low in iron. Cow’s milk should not be given to a child who is younger than two. Their intestines are not mature enough to handle cow’s milk; bleeding can occur and iron deficiency and anemia can develop.

Rare Diseases that can cause Iron-Out-of-Balance™ in children

  • Neonatal Hemochromatosis
  • Hemoglobin diseases (sickle cell, thalassemia, aplastic and hypoplastic anemias)

For more information about these rare forms of disease visit:

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