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Iron deficiency anaemia

Iron deficiency anaemia is where your body does not produce enough red blood cells because the level of iron in your blood is too low.

There may be no symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia at first. If it gets worse, you may get symptoms like tiredness or shortness of breath.

Treatments for iron deficiency anaemia include taking iron supplements and eating iron-rich foods.

Common causes of iron deficiency anaemia include pregnancy and heavy periods.

Read more on the NHS website.

There may be no symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia at first. If it gets worse, you may get symptoms like tiredness or shortness of breath.

Check if you have iron deficiency anaemia

Symptoms can include:

Read more on the NHS website.

Treatments for iron deficiency anaemia include taking iron supplements and eating iron-rich foods.

Medical treatments

Once the reason you have anaemia has been found (for example, an ulcer or heavy periods) your GP will recommend treatment.

If your blood test shows your red blood cell count is low (deficient), you'll be prescribed iron tablets to replace the iron that's missing from your body.

The prescribed tablets are stronger than the supplements you can buy in pharmacies and supermarkets.

You'll have to take them for about 6 months. Drinking orange juice after you have taken them may help your body absorb the iron.

Some people get side effects like:

  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • tummy pain
  • heartburn
  • feeling sick
  • black poo

Try taking the tablets with or soon after food to reduce the chance of side effects.

It's important to keep taking the tablets, even if you get side effects.

Important

Keep iron supplement tablets out of the reach of children. An overdose of iron in a young child can be fatal.

Self-care

If your diet is partly causing your iron deficiency anaemia, your GP will tell you what foods are rich in iron so you can eat more of them.

Eat and drink more:

  • dark-green leafy vegetables like watercress and curly kale
  • cereals and bread with extra iron in them (fortified)
  • meat
  • pulses (beans, peas and lentils)

Eat and drink less:

  • tea
  • coffee
  • milk and dairy
  • foods with high levels of phytic acid, such as wholegrain cereals, which can stop your body absorbing iron from other foods and pills

Large amounts of these foods and drinks make it harder for your body to absorb iron.

You might be referred to a specialist dietitian if you're finding it hard to include iron in your diet.

Read more on the NHS website.

Common causes of iron deficiency anaemia include pregnancy and heavy periods.

Read more on the NHS website.