Q. My son just turned 3 and was prescribed multivitamins with fluoride and iron. The iron has constipated him to the point of pain, and I've had to counteract it with prune juice. Is there a reason kids get prescribed vitamins with iron when they have no history of iron deficiency?
A. If your son is eating a balanced diet and doesn't have a history of iron deficiency, he doesn't need a multivitamin with iron, says Dr. Jill Creighton, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Stony Brook Children's Hospital.
"The only people who need iron are the kids who are iron deficient, or who don't eat meat or cereal," Creighton says. Foods such as raisins and dried apricots also provide iron, she says.
Pediatricians don't routinely use blood tests to check for iron deficiency at your son's age, so they prescribe vitamins based on parents' answers to questions. If you've told your pediatrician that your son is a poor eater, that may be why he prescribed a vitamin with iron, Creighton says.
Incidentally, you may choose not to give your son the added fluoride in the vitamin, either, Creighton says. Taking fluoride in a vitamin delivers it to the body systemically, and "you don't need fluoride in your toes," Creighton says. It may be more effective to have fluoride treatments applied onto the teeth at the dentist, called a fluoride varnish, Creighton says. You can also buy over-the-counter vitamins instead of prescription if you are forgoing the fluoride, Creighton says.