Can Iron-Deficiency Anemia Be Prevented?

Eating a well-balanced diet that includes iron-rich foods may help you prevent iron-deficiency anemia.

Taking iron supplements also may lower your risk for the condition if you're not able to get enough iron from food. Large amounts of iron can be harmful, so take iron supplements only as your doctor prescribes.

For more information about diet and supplements, go to "How Is Iron-Deficiency Anemia Treated?"

Infants and young children and women are the two groups at highest risk for iron-deficiency anemia. Special measures can help prevent the condition in these groups.

Infants and Young Children

A baby's diet can affect his or her risk for iron-deficiency anemia. For example, cow's milk is low in iron. For this and other reasons, cow's milk isn't recommended for babies in their first year. After the first year, you may need to limit the amount of cow's milk your baby drinks.

Also, babies need more iron as they grow and begin to eat solid foods. Talk with your child's doctor about a healthy diet and food choices that will help your child get enough iron.

Your child's doctor may recommend iron drops. However, giving a child too much iron can be harmful. Follow the doctor's instructions and keep iron supplements and vitamins away from children. Asking for child-proof packages for supplements can help prevent overdosing in children.

Because recent research supports concerns that iron deficiency during infancy and childhood can have long-lasting, negative effects on brain health, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends testing all infants for anemia at 1 year of age.

Women and Girls

Women of childbearing age may be tested for iron-deficiency anemia, especially if they have:

  • A history of iron-deficiency anemia
  • Heavy blood loss during their monthly periods
  • Other risk factors for iron-deficiency anemia

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed guidelines for who should be screened for iron deficiency, and how often:

  • Girls aged 12 to 18 and women of childbearing age who are not pregnant: Every 5 to 10 years.
  • Women who have risk factors for iron deficiency: Once a year.
  • Pregnant women: At the first prenatal visit.

For pregnant women, medical care during pregnancy usually includes screening for anemia. Also, your doctor may prescribe iron supplements or advise you to eat more iron-rich foods. This not only will help you avoid iron-deficiency anemia, but also may lower your risk of having a low-birth-weight baby.


Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health.