Anemia occurs when a child doesn't have enough iron in his blood. People need iron in order to have energy and to feel good. Symptoms of iron deficiency include pale skin color, fatigue, irritability, brittle nails, unusual food cravings, and decreased appetite.
An iron-deficient diet is the most common cause of iron deficiency. Drinking too much cow's milk, such as more than a few glasses a day, is a classic cause of iron deficiency in young children, because cow's milk (which does not contain iron) inhibits absorption of iron from food. It is vital that your two-year-old eat a diet rich in iron. Iron-rich foods include spinach, beef, and broccoli. Pediatricians routinely test kids for anemia during well-child visits and check-ups.
If your two-year-old is anemic, most likely he will be prescribed oral iron supplements, which contain ferrous sulfate. Milk may interfere with absorption of iron and should not be taken at the same time as iron supplements. Vitamin C, essential in the production of hemoglobin, can increase iron absorption. Iron-rich foods include raisins, meats (liver is the highest source), fish, poultry, egg yolks, legumes (peas and beans), and whole-grain bread.
It is very important that your child not take too much iron in the form of vitamins — too much iron is as dangerous for him as too little.
Babies are born with about 500 mg of iron in their bodies. By the time they reach adulthood they need to have accumulated about 5000 mg. Your two-year-old needs to absorb an average of 1 mg per day of iron to keep up with the needs of his growing body. Since children only absorb about 10 percent of the iron they eat, most of them need to ingest 8–10 mg of iron per day.