Iron is a necessary mineral for body function and good health. Every red blood cell in the body contains iron in its hemoglobin, the pigment that carries oxygen to the tissues from the lungs. But a lack of iron in the blood can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, which is a very common nutritional deficiency in children.
Iron-deficiency anemia (IDA), often caused by insufficient iron intake, is the major cause of anemia in childhood. It has become much less common in the United States over the past 30 years, primarily due to iron-fortified infant formulas and cereals. Iron-deficiency anemia doesn’t develop immediately. Instead, a person progresses through stages of iron deficiency, beginning with iron depletion, in which the amount of iron in the body is reduced while the iron in RBCs remains constant. If iron depletion isn’t corrected, it progresses to iron deficiency, eventually leading to IDA.