Continuing Medical Education

Iron deficiency in children

R Thejpal


A search (MEDLINE/PubMed) was conducted of recent and relevant articles on iron deficiency in childhood. Iron deficiency remains a
global health problem. In South Africa, multiple interventions, including mandatory fortification and a programme for deworming and
supplementation, have significantly reduced the prevalence of anaemia. Studies continue to show that iron deficiency in infancy and early
childhood is associated with negative neurocognitive, motor and behavioural effects, some of which persist despite treatment. Maternal
iron deficiency has negative effects during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, which affects maternal health (e.g. depression, stress,
interaction) and has negative effects on the baby (e.g. behavioural and immunological effects).
Newer tests include the soluble transferrin receptor, reticulocyte haemoglobin and hepcidin assays. The hepcidin level is useful in
differentiating iron deficiency from anaemia of chronic disease with and without iron deficiency. Screening is a challenge and no firm
recommendations have been made. The mainstay of treatment remains oral iron (commonly ferrous sulphate). Failure to respond to
treatment, refractory iron deficiency and use of parenteral iron are briefly covered.

Author's affiliations

R Thejpal, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Iron deficiency; Children

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2015;105(7):607. DOI:10.7196/SAMJnew.7781

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-09-22
Date published: 2015-09-22

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