Iron deficiency without anaemia in children

Written by: Dr Margarita Burmester
Edited by: Karolyn Judge

Iron deficiency is a condition that is commonly associated with anaemia. However, it’s important to establish the difference between iron-deficiency anaemia and iron deficiency without anaemia.


We speak to leading consultant paediatric specialist Dr Margarita Burmester all about iron deficiency without anaemia in children. She looks at the causes, signs and symptoms, and more, in this informative article. 

Little girl with iron deficiency without anaemia


What is iron deficiency without anaemia?

Iron deficiency without anaemia occurs when the body lacks sufficient iron, but the red blood cells are still able to carry enough oxygen. Iron is an essential mineral that helps in the production of healthy red blood cells. Without enough iron, children may experience symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and difficulty concentrating.



What are the causes of iron deficiency without anaemia?

Inadequate iron intake

Not consuming enough iron-rich foods in the diet can lead to iron deficiency.

Poor iron absorption

Certain conditions, such as coeliac disease or gastrointestinal disorders, can affect the body's ability to absorb iron properly.

Increased iron needs

Rapid growth during childhood and adolescence can increase the demand for iron in the body.



What are the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency without anaemia?

Children with iron deficiency without anaemia may exhibit the following signs and symptoms:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Poor appetite
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restless legs
  • Cold hands and feet



What ways can be iron deficiency without treatment be prevented and treated?

Iron-rich diet

Encourage your child to consume foods rich in iron, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, fortified cereals, and green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin C

Include foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, strawberries, and bell peppers, as vitamin C enhances iron absorption.

Limit milk consumption

Excessive milk intake can interfere with iron absorption. Limit milk to no more than 2 cups or glasses per day for children over 2 years old.

Iron supplements

In some cases, the healthcare provider may recommend iron supplements to ensure adequate iron levels. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplements.

Regular check-ups

Schedule regular check-ups with your child's healthcare provider to monitor iron levels and overall health.



How can parents assist their child with iron deficiency without anaemia?

Lead by example

Make healthy food choices yourself and encourage the whole family to eat a balanced diet.

Meal planning

Plan meals and snacks that include iron-rich foods to ensure your child gets enough iron in their diet.

Cooking methods

Use cast-iron cookware for cooking, as it can increase the iron content of the food.


Teach your child about the importance of iron-rich foods and the role of iron in their body's health.


Encourage your child to drink water throughout the day, as it helps with iron absorption.



When should I seek medical advice for my child with iron deficiency without anaemia?

If you suspect your child may have iron deficiency without anaemia or if they exhibit any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider. They can perform the necessary tests and provide appropriate guidance and treatment.


Remember, iron deficiency without anaemia can impact your child's overall well-being and development. By ensuring a balanced diet and seeking appropriate medical advice, you can help your child maintain optimal iron levels and promote their overall health and vitality.




To arrange an expert consultation with Dr Burmester regarding iron deficiency without anaemia in your child, visit her Top Doctors profile

By Dr Margarita Burmester

Dr Margarita Burmester is a leading consultant paediatric specialist based in London with over 30 years’ experience who is trained in all aspects of paediatrics. This includes preventative paediatric care, general paediatric care, paediatric cardiac intensive care and paediatric critical care, as well as child development, child health education, infant colic, and health screening and surveillance.

With a passion for preventing ill health, Dr Burmester is the co-founder and director of the renowned The Bright Futures Health™ programme, an extensive all-encompassing health surveillance and screening programme for families based on the American Academy of Pediatrics model. This programme is currently available at 77 Wimpole Street and at the Chiswick Medical Centre, where Dr Burmester consults privately, offering paediatric care, child health surveillance, and health check-ups.

Dr Burmester qualified from St Thomas’ Hospital Medical School, University of London, in 1989. Since then, she has worked in Canada at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, in the USA at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard University, and in London at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Dr Burmester was awarded her postgraduate certification in clinical education from King’s College University London in 2016, and has been both a Fellow of the Higher Education Authority and a Member of the Academy of Medical Educators.

In addition to her dedicated private practice, Dr Burmester has been a consultant paediatric intensivist at the Royal Brompton Hospital, London since 2002, where she was director of paediatric intensive care from 2009-2023. In 2008, Dr Burmester founded the multiple prize winning patient-safety educational SPRinT (Simulated Interprofessional Team Training) programme at Royal Brompton Hospital, with the objective of enhancing patient care.

Dr Burmester was the president of the Paediatrics and Child Health section of the Royal Society of Medicine from 2018 to 2021, and is a senior lecturer at the National Heart and Lung Institute. She has authored multiple publications, presented at numerous lectures, and has developed patented tools for patient care improvement. Dr Burmester's clinical performance has been recognised nationally through receiving the silver clinical excellence award given to the top 1.8% of all consultants, and she is a co-recipient of a prestigious Wellcome Trust Award.

Following her many quality improvement initiatives, Dr Burmester has been appointed “Q” fellow by the Health Foundation UK. As paediatrician and mother of three children, Dr Burmester is passionate about prioritising children's futures and understands the importance of maximising children’s health so that they can look forward to the brightest possible future.

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