Today, most of us have unhealthy eating habits. The result of this erratic and indulgent behavior is bad health and suffering from several deficiencies. It is common to find people popping supplements to make up for the lack of a balanced diet.
Iron supplements are a boon for people suffering from anemia and iron deficiency. But too much of it can prove fatal!
Iron poisoning in children is most common, as they are more likely to consume an excessive amount of iron pills. In fact, iron poisoning is a serious health risk in the US (1).
What Causes Iron Poisoning In Children?
Most cases of iron poisoning occur when a child consumes too many iron tablets or other vitamin supplements that contain iron. Children six years and below are more likely to suffer from iron poisoning. Many children end up eating these iron supplements because they look like candy. That is why many manufacturers have now changed the way iron pills look, making them less tempting!
Though most such cases are due to unintentional consumption of iron pills, but there have been cases where children were forcefully fed iron pills as a form of abuse (2).
Iron Poisoning Symptoms In Children:
If you notice an empty vitamin supplement bottle, you can assume that your hyperactive child is up to mischief. Most symptoms related to iron poisoning become evident within six hours of consumption. Here are some signs to watch out for:
- Excessive vomiting
- Loose stools or Diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in vomit or stool
In rare cases, iron poisoning can also lead to shock and death.
[ Read: Signs Of Lead Poisoning In Children ]
How Much Iron Is Too Much?
So, how much iron can cause toxicity? Here’s a simple guide:
You need around 3-6 mg/kg/day of iron to treat anemia. Anything above 10-20 mg/kg can lead to toxicity. Consuming anything over 50 mg/kg can cause severe iron toxicity in children.
When To Seek Medical Help?
Iron poisoning is a serious issue. If you suspect that your child has consumed iron supplements, head to the hospital. Do so even if your child does not show any symptoms. Don’t forget to carry the bottle of vitamins/pills along with you. Once there, your doctor will first perform a physical examination. If your child does not exhibit any symptoms and the doctor does not find any signs of distress, you can breathe easy.
[ Read: Symptoms Of Anemia In Children ]
Treatment For Iron Poisoning In Children:
Remember, only a doctor can diagnose a case of iron poisoning. If tests show an excessive amount of iron in your child’s body, your doctor can try the following treatment options:
1. Your doctor can use a strong laxative to clean your kid’s stomach.
2. He may also try and use Orogastric lavage, or pumping of the stomach. But this is a viable option only if your doctor performs it within an hour of consuming the pills. Moreover, the size of the tube may not accommodate the pills unless they have disintegrated (3).
3. The most popular treatment option remains Deferoxamine (4). The medication helps treat severe cases of iron poisoning. Deferoxamine mesylate is a chemical that pushes the extra iron out of the body through urine. Your doctor may administer it in the form of IV or injections. Some of the side effects of deferoxamine include red-orange colored urine and low blood pressure.
4. If your child has also consumed other medications, your doctor may prescribe activated charcoal to absorb them and flush them out of the body. But this treatment plan works only if your doctor administers it within two hours of consuming the pills (5).
[ Read: Treatment Of Dehydration In Children ]
What Can You Do?
As a parent, it is normal to feel helpless in the face of a problem as serious as iron poisoning. If your child has consumed iron tablets, you can take the following steps:
- Call your doctor immediately.
- Do not try and make your child vomit. Doing so will make diagnosis and treatment difficult.
- Carry the medicine bottle with you to the emergency room.
Preventing Iron Poisoning in Children:
The best news about iron poisoning is that you can prevent it easily. Here are some easy steps you can take to ensure your child stays safe:
- Store all medication out of the reach of your children. Lock them up in medicine cabinets that are child proof.
- Teach your child about the danger of eating unknown things. No matter how tempting something looks, your child should not eat it unless you give him a nod of approval.
- Make sure the medication you are taking has all the dosage instructions. In 1997, the US Food and Drug Administration made it mandatory for unit-dose packaging of iron supplements (6).
A little care can keep your child safe from iron poisoning. But in case iron overdose in children happens, waste no time. The sooner you seek medical help, the better the prognosis.
When you become a parent, the one thing you need to learn is to stay calm. Your baby needs you to be strong. So, hide your worries and take all possible steps to help your kid. And don’t blame yourself. Accidents do happen.
Do you know of any other way of treating iron poisoning? Share with us.
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