Iron can kill your child

Thousands of children are poisoned with iron every year, and iron poisoning is a leading cause of death by poisoning for children under the age of 6. The reason may be because we give our children "chewable vitamins with iron" every day. We consider iron to be safe. Iron, unfortunately, is a lot like Tylenol -- a proper dose is fine, but too much is deadly.

In almost all cases, children are poisoned by iron when they get into a bottle of vitamin pills and eat them like candy. For example, if a bottle of children's vitamins or adult vitamins is left open on the counter, a child can grab a handful and swallow them. Since most people consider vitamins to be harmless, they don't think about the ramifications.

In an iron overdose, the stomach is the first organ to be damaged. The child will often start vomitting and have abdominal pain. Then the iron makes its way into the blood stream and starts damaging other organs. Children have been known to die after ingesting as little as 200 milligrams of iron (that's as few as 7 pre-natal vitamin tablets). This article states:

    Individuals demonstrate signs of GI toxicity with ingestions more than 20 mg/kg but less than or equal to 40 mg/kg. Moderate-to-severe intoxication occurs when ingestion of elemental iron exceeds 40 mg/kg. Ingestions exceeding 60 mg/kg may be lethal.

Steps you can take

  • Keep vitamin pills (and all medicines) out of reach of children.

  • If your child eats a handful of vitamins, call the poison control center or the emergency room immediately.

  • You may be asked to induce vomitting by the poison control center, so be sure to have Ipecac syrup available.

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