Anemia in Toddlers & Preschoolers

Anemia is condition of low red blood cells. The most common cause of anemia is an iron deficiency. Anemia in children can lead to problems with growth and development.

Children are at increased risk for developing anemia if:

  • Suffering from long-term illnesses or diseases, such as kidney or liver disease
  • Consuming a diet low in iron rich foods
  • Consuming more than 3 servings of milk or dairy products daily

The early stages of anemia often have no symptoms. It is crucial that all children continue to see their healthcare provider for routine bloodwork and consume an iron rich diet. Some late signs of advanced anemia can include:

  • Pale or blue tinged skin, nails, or whites of eyes
  • Dizzy or lightheadedness, especially when transitioning to standing
  • Irritability
  • Increased heartrate
  • Headache
  • Sore or swollen tongue
  • Lethargy

In addition, if your child has iron deficiency anemia, they are more at risk for lead poisoning. If you notice any of the above symptoms in your child, contact their health care provider right away for an assessment.

There are many things you can do to lessen your child’s likelihood of developing anemia:

  • Limit milk or dairy product intake to no more than 3 servings per day.
  • Serve a diet high in iron rich foods. Offer iron rich foods at least 3 times daily. Some age-appropriate iron rich foods include:
    • Iron-fortified WIC cereals
    • Iron-rich meats such as beef, pork, chicken, and fish
    • Eggs
    • Dark, leafy green vegetables such as spinach or kale
    • Dried, cooked beans like lentils, black beans, red beans
  • Serve a diet that is also rich in Vitamin C. Some age-appropriate foods that are also a good source of vitamin C include:
    • Citrus fruits and juices
    • Vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, and bell peppers
    • Fruits such as melon, kiwi, and strawberries
  • Serve meals that combine good sources of iron with good sources of vitamin C, such as:
    • Spaghetti with a tomato-based meat sauce
    • Tacos with a ground meat topped with tomatoes