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Learning About Iron Supplements for Children


Children take iron supplements when their bodies do not have enough iron. The body uses iron to make hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin is part of red blood cells. It carries oxygen through the body. Without enough oxygen, your child may feel weak, dizzy, and short of breath. He or she may tire easily. Your child also may be fussy, have a short attention span, and grow more slowly than normal.

Most children begin to feel normal after a few weeks of taking iron pills. But your child needs to take the pills for several months to build up the iron supply in his or her body. This can take up to 6 months.


  • Ferrous fumarate
  • Ferrous gluconate
  • Ferrous sulfate

You can buy iron supplements without a prescription. Your doctor will have instructions on how much to take and for how long. Your doctor will also tell you whether your child needs any testing for iron levels.

Possible side effects

Common side effects may include:

  • Stomach ache.
  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Constipation.
  • Black stools.

Your child may have other side effects or reactions not listed here. Check the information that comes with the medicine.

What to know about taking this medicine

  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine.
    • Try to give the pills on an empty stomach about 1 hour before or 2 hours after meals. But your child may need to take the iron with food to avoid a stomach ache.
    • Do not give your child antacids or let your child drink milk or caffeine drinks such as cola at the same time or within 2 hours of the time that your child takes iron pills. They can keep the body from absorbing the iron well.
    • Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. You may want to give iron pills with a glass of orange juice or some other food high in vitamin C.
    • Iron pills may cause stomach problems, such as heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and cramps. Be sure your child drinks plenty of fluids and eats fruits, vegetables, and fibre each day.
    • Iron pills can change the colour of your child's stool to a greenish or grayish black. This is normal. But internal bleeding also can cause dark stool. So be sure to tell your doctor about any colour changes.
    • Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with the iron pills. Even after your child starts feeling better, it will take several months for the body to build up its supply of iron.
    • If your child misses taking a pill on time, do not give a double dose of iron. Give the next dose at the scheduled time.
  • Liquid forms of iron can stain your child's teeth. You can mix a dose of liquid iron in water, fruit juice, or tomato juice. Have your child drink it with a straw so that it does not get on your child's teeth.
  • Check with your doctor before you give your child any other medicines, including over-the-counter medicines. Make sure your doctor knows all of the medicines and natural health products your child takes. Taking some medicines together can cause problems.
  • Keep iron pills out of the reach of small children. Too much iron can be very dangerous.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

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