Tired & Lethargic Kiddos? Signs of Iron Deficiency in Kids

Tired & Lethargic Kiddos? Signs of Iron Deficiency in Kids

Article By: Dr. Evangelynn Honegger

Dr. Evangelynn Honegger is the Lead Clinic Physician at TRUEcare Integrative Medicine, an integrative naturopathic family medicine, acupuncture, and functional nutrition practice in Kirkland, WA.

Are your kids feeling run down? Do they seem to get tired easily? Are they pale? Is sleep restless, or are they having a hard time concentrating during the day? If so, they may be iron deficient. Iron is an essential mineral that helps the body carry oxygen to the tissues. When kids don't get enough iron, they can develop iron deficiency anemia, which can cause a variety of symptoms including fatigue, sleep issues, chronic headaches, shortness of breath, irritability, poor mood, muscle pain or weakness, and pale skin.

Iron is especially important for children under the age of 5 because iron serves as a vital building block that impacts how their bodies grow. The good news is that iron deficiency anemia in childhood is easily treatable. In most cases, iron supplementation can help improve these symptoms and prevent further complications. So, if you think your child may be iron deficient, talk to your doctor about getting them tested.

Here are three cases I’ve seen in my office recently where iron supplementation has been a game changer.

A tired child sleeping on a bed.

1) Case #1 - Iron in toddlerhood.

“Sleep has gotten extremely difficult in the last month. No matter how full and active the day is, sleep has been turned upside down for our little one. We are also finding her tastes in food to be quite picky in what she wants to eat every day.” This is actual feedback a parent shared with me during a recent 3-year-old well child visit.

I commonly see many of my toddlers and selective eaters needing iron supplementation to make sure all nutrient needs are being met and subsequently see improvement in sleep and toddler meltdowns if we find iron deficiency is in the picture.

Three children playing soccer outside, wearing red jerseys.

2) Case #2 - No more tired pre-teens.

I recently saw a 12-year-old in my office with ongoing headaches and low energy, which is certainly not typical for a young and active adolescent. He had been to the eye doctor, so we assessed neck pain and tension since he was a young athlete. He was also having a growth spurt and increased muscle pain and what felt like longer recovery and "bounce back" from soccer and tennis practices.

It’s so important to consider iron deficiency as a root cause with several of these symptoms, and it turned out to be the case for this kiddo. Once iron stores were boosted through food and supplementation, his symptoms went away and we were able to maintain healthy iron levels.

A family of four working on homework together.

3) Case #3 - Iron for focus & attention.

For this bright third grader, a new year brought a whole new level of learning. Focus, cognitive function, restlessness, or a new diagnosis around ADD/ADHD can often mean your kiddo needs extra cognitive support. Healthy iron stores are crucial for physical and mental well-being, and low iron can exacerbate ADD/ADHD symptoms. With effects of iron deficiency like trouble with concentration, don’t forget to assess iron levels in kiddos to help with focus at school and at home.

Renzo's Iron Strong vitamins.

4) Here are some key facts about iron.

  • Iron is one of the most abundant minerals in the body.
  • Iron is essential for red blood cell production = energy!
  • Test first! Low ferritin (iron stores) often go on for a long time before iron deficiency in infants and children hits. Checking ferritin early can be preventative.
  • Iron supplements should be taken with food to reduce the risk of stomach discomfort. They should be taken with Vitamin B and C rich foods or supplements but taken away from calcium rich foods and supplements, which can block adequate absorption.

Since it can be difficult to raise iron levels through diet alone, a supplement can make a significant difference. Unfortunately, as many parents may research, iron supplements often come with unpleasant side effects like constipation, nausea, tummy aches, and more. When it comes to iron supplements, bioavailability matters!

Renzo’s Iron Strong is one of my favorite iron supplements because it contains clean and minimal ingredients. Renzo's also uses carbonyl iron as the source of iron, which is considered to be a safer form of iron with less stomach discomfort. I also love that Renzo's Iron Strong includes 25mg of Vitamin C to help as a cofactor to help increase absorption.

In addition, Iron Strong is free of common food allergens, artificial flavors, and colors AND is vegan-friendly. Palatability with a great orange taste, no dental discoloration, and an easy Melty Tab form versus liquid or gummy iron supplements... Renzo's Iron Strong is a win all around!

It is important to talk to your child's doctor to see if iron supplementation is the right decision. With a little planning, you can help your kids get the iron they need to stay active and healthy.

Renzo's Vitamins provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice.

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