Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron deficient patients are given iron supplements (ferrous sulfate). Iron supplements are best absorbed on an empty stomach, and with acidic juices such as orange juice. Though some people need to take them with food to avoid stomach upset, it is important to know that some foods such as dairy and soy products can interfere with the absorption of iron. Cow's milk can interfere with iron absorption and should not be taken at the same time as iron supplements.

Iron may also be given by injection into a muscle or through a vein (IV).

In most cases, the red blood counts will return to normal after a few months of iron supplementation, although your child may need to continue the supplements for several months after the anemia is gone to build up stores. Your child's doctor will want to determine the cause of the iron deficiency, which may require further investigation.

Diet is an important way to prevent and treat iron deficiency.

Good sources of iron include:

  • Lean meats
  • Dried beans and lentils
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanut butter
  • Soybeans
  • Iron-fortified breads and cereals
  • Apricots
  • Kale and other greens
  • Oatmeal
  • Prunes
  • Raisins

Vitamin C helps promote the absorption of iron. Iron deficient patients should have a diet that includes foods rich in vitamin C, including: Oranges, melon, strawberries, apricots, kiwi, broccoli and potatoes.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Cancer & Blood Disease

Hematology Clinic
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 476-3831
Fax: (415) 514-5868
Appointment information