What is Iron Overdose
Iron is an essential mineral in the body. Deficiency with this mineral can cause anemia but too much intake of iron is also harmful to the body. The level of iron should be maintained within normal levels to ensure optimum body functions [1, 2].
What is Iron?
Iron is a mineral required by the body and its main function is to aid in the production of blood cells. Low serum levels of iron can lead to a condition called anemia or low red blood cells. Iron is abundant in red meat, seafood, beans, dried fruit and dark green leafy vegetables.
Iron supplements are available to ensure people have adequate levels of iron. Side effects of taking oral iron supplements may include nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, diarrhea or constipation.
It is important to note that the presence of food affects the absorption of iron in the body. This means that iron supplements should be taken on an empty stomach [1, 2, 3].
How much is Iron Overdose?
The recommended amount of iron that can be taken in adults is about 50-100mg of iron 3 times daily. For children, the recommended amount is about 7mg/day. The small amount of iron required puts children at risk for iron overdose.
Overdosing on iron is one of the leading causes of fatality in children younger than 5 years of age. The most common reason is an accidental ingestion of pre-natal vitamins which has high levels of iron [2, 3, 4, 5].
What are Iron Overdose symptoms?
The presenting symptoms of iron depends on the time passed since the ingestion of iron occurred. A few hours after taking the iron, the person will exhibit vomiting, abdominal pain, drowsiness and irritability. After this has past, the patient will manifest signs of improvement.
Within 48 hours, the patient will go into shock and may even present with bleeding, fever, liver failure and seizures. If the condition has not been managed after 2-5 days, the failure of the liver will continue and the resulting bleeding may be fatal to some.
In the final stage, there may be scarring of the stomach and the intestines and this can cause vomiting and severe abdominal pain. Scarring of the liver or liver cirrhosis may occur in these patients later [2, 3, 4].
What is Iron Overdose treatment?
If an individual is suspected of iron overdose, they must be brought to the hospital as soon as possible. Blood tests will be performed in order to identify the serum iron level of the patient.
If iron is taken orally, induced vomiting may be performed to remove some of the ingested iron.
Since some amount may still remain in the stomach after vomiting, polyethylene glycol may be used to irrigate the stomach and the intestines.
Deferoxamine binds with iron in the blood and may be used in chelation therapy (antidote). When iron binds with deferoxamine, it will be able to pass freely in the urine [2, 3, 4].
How to prevent Iron Overdose?
Iron overdose can be prevented by taking iron according to the prescription of the physician. Food supplements rich in iron such as pre-natal vitamins should be kept away from children’s reach. This will prevent children from accidentally taking these medications [1, 2, 3, 4].
Iron overdose can be lethal especially to young children. If you know more about iron toxicity, you can share it in the comments section.
- University of California San Francisco Medical Center. (2016). Hemoglobin and Functions of Iron. Retrieved from University of California San Francisco Medical Center: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/hemoglobin_and_functions_of_iron/
- Heller, J. (2015, October 13). Iron overdose. Retrieved from Medline Plus: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002659.htm
- WebMd. (2016). Iron. Retrieved from WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-912-iron.aspx?activeingredientid=912&activeingredientname=iron
- O’Malley, G., & O’Malley, R. (2016). Iron Poisoning. Retrieved from Merck Manual: http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/injuries-and-poisoning/poisoning/iron-poisoning
- Spanierman, C. (2015, December 4). Iron Toxicity. Retrieved from Medscape: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/815213-overview
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