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Current UK NSC recommendations > Iron Deficiency Anaemia

The UK NSC recommendation on Iron Deficiency Anaemia screening in children under 5 years of age

Recommendation Systematic population screening programme not recommended
Last review completed July 2013
Next review due in 2016/17
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Screening for iron deficiency in children under 5 years of age should not be offered.


A causal relationship between iron deficiency anaemia and adverse developmental outcomes has not been demonstrated. A non invasive test suitable for population screening has not been identified and the reported effect of iron supplementation on complications associated with iron deficiency in asymptomatic children is conflicting.


In the absence of screening the emphasis, in terms of prevention, should continue to be placed on primary prevention via good dietary advice.


Find general information about population health screening.

Why is screening not recommended by UK NSC?

A national screening programme for Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IDA) in Children under 5 Years of Age is not recommended. This is because:

  • There is a lack of evidence that low levels of iron in the blood causes children under the age of 5 to develop at a slower rate than expected.
  • The current screening test involves taking a blood sample. This can be distressing for the child.
  • Some children can have IDA without being ill. The benefit of treating these children is unclear.

In the absence of screening, the most important factor should continue to be preventing children from developing Iron Deficiency Anaemia by providing good dietary advice.

More about Iron Deficiency Anaemia

Anaemia is a condition that occurs when there is a reduced number of red blood cells or concentration of haemoglobin. There are several different types of anaemia, and each one has a different cause. The most common form of the condition is iron-deficiency anaemia. This is where the body lacks enough iron to keep the red blood cells functioning properly. In children, it is usually due to eating a diet that has too little iron in it.

>>Read more about iron deficiency anaemia on NHS Choices


Institute of Child Health
Royal College of General Practitioners
Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

The stakeholder groups will be involved when the recommendation is next reviewed. If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us. More information for stakeholders can be found in appendix C of the UK NSC evidence review process.

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