Anaemia caused by iron deficiency is very prevalent in India and in Indian children. Various studies have shown prevalence between 14% to 88% (!!) even in urban upper-middle class children1. Doctors and paediatricians also tell us that they see a high prevalence of iron deficiency in India.
Iron deficiency anaemia is caused through reduced iron in the body. Iron is used to produce haemoglobin, which in turn is used to produce red blood cells (RBC), RBC is used to transport oxygen to various parts of the body and this gets affected when iron is deficient.
Iron deficiency anaemia is problem that progressed gradually. It is not easy to recognize it at first, as the body adapts to the problem. But over time, it becomes more pronounced. Action needs to be taken early.
Prolonged iron deficiency can cause permanent effects like2
From the age of 1, chldren typically transition to eating food that is cooked for the family (with a little less spice). The entire family should ensure that the diet contains foods that are rich in iron. If you buy any off-the-shelf foods (cereals etc.,), get the ones that are iron fortified.
However, even if you eat a lot of foods rich in iron, the amount of iron your children get may not be enough (especially vegetarians who also drink a lot of cow's milk). So keep an eye open for the symptoms described above If you notice the symptoms, talk to your paediatrician about giving them an iron supplement.
Foods that are rich in iron are:
1. G. Srihari, A. Eilander, S. Muthayya, A.V. Kurpad and S. Seshadri, "Nutritional Status of Affluent Indian School Children: What and How Much Do We Know?", Indian Pediatrics 2007; 44:199-203
2. "Preventing Iron Deficiency in Women and Children: Background and Consensus on Key Technical Issues and Resources for Advocacy, Planning and Implementing National Programmes", UNICEF/UNU/WHO/MI Technical Workshop, UNICEF, New York , 7–9 October 1998
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