5 Safe Types of Iron Supplements for Kids

The body needs iron in order to make hemoglobin, an iron-containing protein in the red blood cells (RBCs). Hemoglobin helps your blood carry oxygen and deliver it to all of your other cells. Without hemoglobin, the body will stop producing healthy RBCs. Without enough iron, your child’s muscles, tissues, and cells won’t get the oxygen they need. Iron is also important for the immune system, so not getting enough iron may lead to more infections, more colds, and more bouts of the flu.

Iron deficiency can hamper your child’s growth. It may also cause:

  • learning and behavioral issues
  • social withdrawal
  • delayed motor skills
  • muscle weakness

Does My Child Need an Iron Supplement?

Some children are at a higher risk of iron deficiency and may need to take a supplement. The following circumstances could put your child at higher risk for an iron deficiency:

  • picky eaters who aren’t eating regular, well-balanced meals
  • children eating a mostly vegetarian or vegan diet
  • medical conditions that prevent the absorption of nutrients, including intestinal diseases and chronic infections
  • low birth weight and premature infants
  • children born to mothers who were deficient in iron
  • kids who drink too much cow’s milk
  • exposure to lead
  • young athletes who exercise often
  • older children and young teenagers going through rapid growth during puberty
  • adolescent girls who lose blood during menstruation

Asking Your Doctor About Iron Supplements

Don’t give your child iron supplements without first talking to your doctor. Checking for anemia should be part of your child’s regular health exam, but ask your doctor if you have any concerns.

Your pediatrician will conduct a physical examination of your child and ask if they are showing any of the signs of an iron deficiency, including:

  • behavioral problems
  • loss of appetite
  • weakness
  • increased sweating
  • strange cravings (pica) like eating dirt
  • failure to grow at the expected rate

Your doctor might also take a small sample of blood to check your child’s red blood cells. If your doctor thinks your child has an iron deficiency, they may prescribe a supplement.

5 Safe Types of Iron Supplements for Kids

There are supplements available in tablets or liquid formulations that are made specifically for young children. Under your doctor’s supervision, try the following safe supplements:

1. Liquid Drops

Liquid supplements work well because the body can absorb them easily. Your child won’t have to swallow a pill. The bottle typically comes with a dropper with markings on the dropper tube to indicate the dosage level. You can squirt the liquid straight into your child’s mouth. Iron supplements can stain your child’s teeth, so brush their teeth after giving any liquid iron supplement.

2. Syrups

You can safely measure out and give your child a spoonful of their iron supplement with syrup. 

3. Chewables

If you don’t want to deal with measuring out liquids and syrups, a chewable supplement is the way to go. They're sweet and easy to eat and typically contain many vitamins in the same tablet.

4. Gummies

Kids love fruity gummies because of their taste and resemblance to candy. While it is perfectly safe to give your kid a vitamin gummy, parents must be extra cautious to keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

5. Powder

A powder iron supplement can be mixed with your kid’s favorite soft foods, such as oatmeal, applesauce, or yogurt, so picky eaters might not even know they are eating it.