Iron Supplement (Oral)

Overview

Iron is one of the key elements needed by the body for the making of red blood cells, and when a person lacks sufficient red blood cells, it can cause ongoing tiredness or it can create learning problems, a reduction of physical capabilities, or a persistent shortness of breath. It is very common for people to lose red blood cells through bleeding, burns, stomach problems and other ways, when that happens it is important for the loss of red blood cells (and iron) to be resupplied to the body.

An iron supplement can be delivered to the body in one of two routes' oral and parenteral. If a patient desires to use the oral supplement version, they can be purchased at any pharmacy without a prescription, although dosage should be under a doctor's supervision. However, the parenteral form of delivery should always be administered by a medical professional, unless you as a patient have been thoroughly instructed as to injection procedures, needle and syringe handling and dosage amounts.

The best way to ensure an adequate supply of iron normally is to maintain a balanced diet that includes reasonable portions of red meat, since that is the best source of absorbable iron. Since iron comes in two different dietary forms ' absorbable and partially absorbable' you will get more iron from red meats than you would from foods like cereal and beans, which contain the less absorbable form of iron.

There are recommended daily allowances (RDA's) for people of all ages in the US to provide a guideline for how much iron intake you should have on a daily basis. If you aren't sure about how much iron you should be ingesting daily for your age group and medical condition, you should consult with your doctor to be sure, since the iron intake is one of the most important dietary considerations you can have. If you are not taking in sufficient iron on a daily basis, it would be a good idea to check with your doctor and consider some form of an iron supplement to get back on track, and supply your body with the iron it needs to perform optimally.

Condition treated

  • Iron deficiency

Type Of Medicine

  • Mineral needed by the body for proper function

Side Effects

Along with the beneficial effects that iron supplement can have on your body for the increase of red blood cells, there can also be some less desirable side effects imparted to patients ingesting the supplement. These can be of mild severity all the way up to fairly intense, or you may experience no side effects whatsoever from taking an iron supplement. If you should observe any of the side effects shown below after taking this medication, and those side effects become uncomfortable to the point where they cause you concern, you should consult with your doctor at the earliest opportunity. Your doctor may want to discontinue usage of the iron supplement or to alter the dosage level which you were taking.

Some of the most common side effects experienced by patients who received the injectable form of the iron supplement are the following:

  • Flushing of the skin
  • Headaches
  • Metallic taste
  • Difficulty with breathing
  • Swelling in the throat or in the mouth
  • Hives and or skin rashes
  • Redness of the skin
  • Pain or other manifestations at the injection site
  • Pains in the lower back, side, groin, or in some major muscle groups
  • Chest pains
  • Chills and/or fever
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness, with the sensation that you may be about to faint
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Profuse sweating.

For patients who receive iron supplement orally, the symptoms listed below are much more common:

  • Abdominal pains or cramping
  • Stomach pains or cramping
  • Soreness throughout the body
  • Double vision or blurred vision
  • Feeling of weakness
  • Throat pains when swallowing
  • Stools that are red colored or black colored.

One of the more alarming side effects that a patient might potentially experience is an overdose of iron supplement, and this can occur for a period as long as one hour after the supplement was taken. If you observe signs of overdose such as those listed below, you should seek emergency medical treatment immediately.

  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Extremely sharp stomach pains or cramping
  • Very strong vomiting, sometimes including blood
  • Blue colored palms, fingernails, and lips
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Weak and fast heartbeat
  • Unusual weakness or tiredness
  • Skin which is pale and clammy to the touch.

There are also some side effects which can come and go in the aftermath of taking an iron supplement, which do not require any kind of medical attention, but which are relatively minor and tend to fade away on their own. These symptoms could include a wide range of observable side effects while your body is adjusting itself to the unusual amount of iron supplement you are ingesting. If the symptoms listed below do not subside on their own within two or three days of taking an iron supplement, or if they reach the uncomfortable stage for you, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible.

If you have been administered iron supplement intravenously over a period of time, there is a slight possibility that you will observe your skin taking on a brownish tinge, and this usually fades away within several weeks. Along with this skin discoloration, you may also notice a slight staining of your teeth, occasional heartburn or darkened urine. These side effects will also fade away within a few weeks, and if they don't, you should consult with your doctor.

Persons who are ingesting the oral form of an iron supplement may notice that their stool becomes dark green or black, especially if you have been taking an iron supplement over a prolonged period of time. This is nothing to be alarmed about and is just an indication that some of the iron supplement you are ingesting is not being absorbed fully. In rare cases, it is possible for your stools to take on a sticky consistency, or to have red streaks which are noticeable, along with cramping or strong pains in the stomach or abdomen. If you find yourself subject to these more serious side effects, you should contact your doctor for advice.

Dosage

Once you start using the iron supplement, you should periodically check in with your doctor to determine whether or not you are seeing the desired benefits from the supplement. There are times when blood test may be necessary in order to confirm this. This is also a good time for you to relate to your doctor any information about side effects which have occurred, and how severe they might be.

When you are taking the oral form of iron supplement, it will be absorbed most readily on an empty stomach, along with juice or water, approximately an hour after a meal. However, some people experience upset stomachs when taking iron supplements, so if this happens in your own case, it is permissible to take iron supplements with food or right after a meal.

If you are taking iron supplements under your own supervision, make sure to closely follow the manufacturer's directions, which will be printed on the package for your information. It is possible when taking the liquid form of iron supplement that your teeth may become stained, so there are a few things you can do to prevent this or at least reduce the possibility. One of the best ways is to mix each dose of iron supplement with juice or water, and then using a drinking straw in order to completely bypass the teeth, and have the liquid go down the throat. If you are self-administering the iron supplement through a dropper, you can place the dosage on the back of the tongue, and then immediately flush with juice or water. If your teeth still do become stained somehow, the stains can generally be removed fairly easily by brushing your teeth with sodium bicarbonate or medicinal peroxide.

The amount of medicine that you take under your doctor's supervision will be dependent upon several factors: the strength of the medication itself, the frequency of your dosages, the total time that you are being treated with iron supplements, your medical condition and the condition you're being treated for, and your body's tolerance to iron supplements.

  • For delivery of iron supplements via injection, for persons of any age, the precise dosage will be calculated by your doctor, based on those factors described above
  • For oral dosage forms of all types, e.g. tablets, capsules, and oral solutions, intended to supply enough iron supplement to cover a deficiency, standard dosages would be as follows:
  • For teenage males and adults ' 10 mg daily
  • For teenage females and adults' between 10 and 15 mg daily
  • For pregnant females 30 mg daily
  • For breastfeeding females' 15 mg daily
  • For children between the ages of seven and 10' 6 to 10 mg daily
  • For children between the ages of four and six'“ 10 mg daily
  • For children from infant age up to three years' 6 to 10 mg daily.

If you should miss a dosage of the iron supplement, it's better to skip that missed dosage and simply wait for the next regularly scheduled dosage. Do not double up on doses just for the sake of getting back on schedule with your dosage routine, or because you happen to feel weaker or more distracted than usual at any specific time.

Interactions

Like most medications, an iron supplement has the potential to interact with other drugs that you may be using. This is not a good thing because when two drugs interact, there is always the potential for causing more severe side effects in the patient using them. It's also possible that when two or more drugs interact, the effectiveness of all drugs involved will be diminished, and it's even possible that they may be rendered useless by interaction with other drugs.

This being the case, it is advisable for you to prepare a list of all your other medications so that you can consult with your doctor to make sure that none of these will interact with iron supplements. Make sure to include on this list all other prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements, as well as all the specific dosages of each one of these.

This will be a handy list to have if you should have a need to visit a healthcare clinic where your primary care doctor is not in residence, or if you should ever have to visit an emergency room for unplanned treatment of a medical condition. Any doctor will be able to review your list of medications and prescribe a program of treatment for you that does not interact with any of the drugs you are currently taking.

Some of the drugs which doctors most commonly check to identify the potential for interaction with iron supplement are those on the list below:

  • Digoxin
  • Vizmodegib
  • Rilpivirine
  • Phenytoin
  • Eltrombopag
  • Elvitegravir
  • Gefitinib
  • Ketoconazole
  • Altretamine
  • Amygdalin
  • Dasabuvir
  • Deferoxamine
  • Pazopanib
  • Mefenamic acid
  • Dimercaprol
  • Ledipasvir

It's a good idea to avoid using alcohol or tobacco anywhere around the time where you are taking an iron supplement, because any of the side effects which might be impacted by the medication, could be exacerbated by the use of alcohol or tobacco.

There are also several medical conditions which can be impacted by ingesting iron supplement, and these are considered interactions as well by medical personnel. If you have had any instance of the medical conditions listed below, you should discuss this with your doctor prior to taking iron supplements, because there's a chance that an iron supplement can interact with your medical condition and either worsen it or trigger a new occurrence of it.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Asthma or any kind of allergies
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Transfusions that are very high in red blood cell composition
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney infections
  • Porphyria cutaneous tarda, which can cause higher blood levels of your iron supplement to be present, and that in turn will intensify the attendant side effects
  • Heart disease, which is exacerbated by the injected form of iron supplements
  • Any kind of intestinal problems such as colitis
  • Stomach ulcers, which can be worsened by iron supplements
  • Various anemias, which can have their iron levels increased to toxicity when they're not associated with an actual deficiency of iron
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Hemoglobinopathies
  • Hemosiderosis.

Warnings

As with all medications, there are certain precautions you should be aware of when taking iron supplements as part of a program of wellness or to treat iron deficiency. Some of these precautions are fairly mild in nature, while others can be relatively urgent, but all warnings and precautions should be adhered to by patients using supplements.

The first thing to be aware of is that when you combine iron with some kinds of foodstuffs, the supplement may lose a significant portion of its nutritive value. For that reason, you should either avoid some of the foods on the list below, or you should at least reduce your intake of them, so that they won't impact your usage of iron supplement. You can also avoid any conflict by taking these foods one or two hours after your iron supplement:

  • Cereals
  • Foods containing bran
  • Whole grain breads
  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Coffee
  • Spinach
  • Tea.

You should also avoid taking any kind of calcium supplements or antacids along with your iron supplement so that you get the full benefit of all three. As with foods, if you need to take those other supplements, just make sure to space them out by an hour or two, so that they don't interfere with your iron supplement.

The following cautions should be considered extremely urgent, and you should take great care to avoid doing either one of these so that you don't cause a serious medical condition:

  • Be sure not to take large amounts of iron for a period exceeding six months, unless you have consulted with your doctor, and he/she has recommended it for some reason. There is a potential for people who ingest large amounts of iron for a prolonged period to reach toxic levels and become poisoned. It's also possible for iron which does not get fully absorbed into the body to screen the presence of blood in your stool, and that would prevent medical personnel from identifying a serious medical condition
  • You should never take oral iron supplements if you are also receiving iron injections because this will have the effect of greatly increasing iron levels in your body, and creating a potential for iron poisoning.

When you have been taking oral form tablets that are coated, or if you have been using a long-acting product containing iron supplement, it may cause your stools to become black, which is an indication that the tablets are not being properly broken down by stomach acids, and you might still not be receiving sufficient iron. If you observe this black stool condition in your routine, make sure to contact your doctor as soon as possible and review the situation with him/her.

If you are taking iron supplements at home under your own supervision, make sure to keep your iron medications well out of the reach of any curious children who might conceivably access it. There is an extreme danger that a child could ingest a large amount of iron and overdose on it, and when this happens there just may not be time for emergency personnel to help the child recover. For this reason, you should keep a bottle of syrup of ipecac on hand in the unlikely event that an overdose occurs with some member of your household. It's best that you don't deliver this personally until you are instructed to do so by either a doctor or a knowledgeable person at a Poison Control Center.

If you suspect that either yourself or someone in the household has taken an overdose of iron supplement medicine, you should carry out the following procedure:

  • Call a Poison Control Center
  • Call your doctor
  • If neither of the above are available, call your nearest hospital emergency room
  • Follow all instructions given to you by knowledgeable authorities
  • If syrup of ipecac has been recommended for treatment, and you have administered it as instructed, you should immediately go to the emergency room while waiting for the syrup of ipecac to work. It will generally take between 20 and 30 minutes for the ipecac to evacuate the contents of someone's stomach, and this 20 or 30 minutes should not be wasted but should be spent travelling to the emergency room
  • Make sure to take the container of the iron supplement that was ingested by yourself or your child
  • The signs of an overdose may not be obvious for as much as an hour after ingesting a large quantity of iron supplement, so if you see any signs whatsoever, don't wait for more to appear, but follow the steps above so that you can avoid a potential disaster.

With regard to taking iron supplements during pregnancy or during breastfeeding, there are no particular warnings that you will need to observe. In fact, it is particularly important for pregnant mothers or nursing mothers to receive a sufficient supply of iron in their blood, in order to ensure the health of their unborn infant, and later for their nursing infant.

It is more than likely that your pediatric doctor will regularly check your levels of vitamins and minerals in order to ensure that your health is adequate, and that you are receiving all the nutrients you need to pass on to your baby. The most likely time for an iron deficiency to occur in a pregnant mother is during the last six months of pregnancy, so that's when it is particularly important for you to monitor your levels of vitamins and minerals, to ensure optimal health.

Storage

Iron supplement medications should be stored at room temperature, in a location which is not subject to any kind of extremes of direct light, moisture, heat, or cold, and it should under no circumstances ever be frozen. Any of these conditions will have the effect of reducing the medicine's effectiveness, and you would not be receiving the dosage that you think you are.

The location of storage is extremely important since it must be kept out of the reach of children at all costs. Children are even more likely to experience an overdose of iron when levels in the blood become toxic, so your iron supplement package should be stored in a spot which is too high for any young person to reach, even with help.

When your medicine has reached its expiration date, it should be discarded and not ingested, because its effectiveness will be seriously questionable. When you discard the medicine, make sure to follow recommended procedures for safe medicine disposal, as directed by your doctor or pharmacist. If you lack this information, you can check the FDA website for the safe disposal of medicines.

Summary

An iron supplement can be delivered via two different routes, either oral or parenteral, and it is used for a single primary purpose, that of treating a patient who has an iron deficiency. This medicine can be purchased at any pharmacy without a prescription, but the intravenous method of delivery must be done under the direct supervision of a doctor. Under normal circumstances, this medication is relatively safe, with one of the most common side effects being an upset stomach. However, if ingested in large quantities, there is a potential for iron poisoning, so anyone taking this medicine at home should follow all manufacturer directions, and never exceed recommended dosage levels.