Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic

Iron Deficiency Anemia

There are many different types of anemia. The most common is iron deficiency anemia.

Anemia is defined as a reduced number of red blood cells. There are many different types of anemia but let’s focus on the most common, iron deficiency anemia.

Iron makes something called hemoglobin, which is part of your red blood cells. Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen everywhere in your body. Without enough iron, your body can’t deliver enough oxygen.

Symptoms of Anemia

Common symptoms of anemia include:

  • Paleness
  • Feeling tired
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair loss
  • Fast heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Irritability

What Puts You At Risk For Iron Deficiency?

Not including foods with iron in your diet, heavy periods in girls or abnormal blood loss, and some chronic illnesses.

How Do You Treat Anemia?

You should talk with your doctor about the best treatment for you. This might include simply adding more iron-rich foods to your diet or taking a daily medicine.

What’s the right way to take your iron medication?

Take it with water or juice on an empty stomach. If you have an upset stomach, you may take it with food but do not take it with dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), tea, coffee or eggs.

What are the possible side effects of taking your iron medication?

Constipation, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and dark stools.

Why is this important?

Taking iron can help improve your performance on physical activities such as sports and on mental activities such as test taking.

Contact Us and Meet Our Team

Our adolescent medicine team has special training to meet the unique needs of teens. We're here to help guide you and answer any questions you might have.

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Call 727-767-8336

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The information here is not intended to be nor should be used as a substitute for medical evaluation or treatment by a health care professional. This publication is for information purposes only and the reader assumes all associated risks.

Content experts: Kelli Baldwin, M.D., Palak Patel, M.D., and Jasmine Reese, M.D., M.P.H.


  1. American Academy of Pediatrics