What Are the Signs of Iodine Deficiency in a Child?

Posted on July 12 2022, By: Dr. Aqsa Ph.D. Scholar in Nutrigenomics

What Are the Signs of Iodine Deficiency in a Child?




Iodine is a trace mineral that is naturally present in some foods and also available in the form of dietary supplements. It is an essential nutrient that the human body needs to produce thyroid hormones, including triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating several biochemical reactions in the human body, such as enzymatic activities, protein synthesis, and metabolic activities. In addition, these hormones are required for the proper development of the nervous system and skeletal system in infants. (1)

Research has revealed that iodine dosing requirements depend on your age. This mineral is majorly found in iodized salts, fish, and dairy products, including cheese, milk, and yogurt. On the other hand, processed foods are deficient in this mineral because they do not contain iodized salt. A deficiency of this mineral can lead to several health complications in children such as learning difficulties, abnormal weight gain, and swelling in the neck. It is important that you try to include iodized salts and iodine-rich foods in your child’s diet to prevent these health complications in your child. In case of severe deficiency, you can also consider giving iodine supplements to your children with they approval of your child’s physician, and they are available in the form of multivitamin-mineral supplements. (2)

How Does Iodine Function in Your Child’s Body?

Iodine performs several important functions in your child’s body. The research has found that a newborn infant gets this essential trace mineral from their mother’s milk. Therefore, an iodine deficiency in lactating mothers can affect the growth and development of their infants. (1)

One study has found that iodine is essential for the body’s cells to convert food into energy. This mineral is primarily used to regulate thyroid functions in children. It also performs numerous physiological functions, such as supporting immune functions and reducing the risk of cancer development at a later age. (2)

How is iodine absorbed in your child’s body? This mineral is present in several forms through iodized salts and natural foods, including potassium and sodium salts, iodate, inorganic iodine, and iodide (a reduced form of iodine). According to health experts, iodine in the form of iodide is quickly and completely absorbed in the duodenum and stomach of your child. On the other hand, iodate is also reduced in the gastrointestinal tract of your child and absorbed in the form of iodide. When iodide enters the blood circulation after absorption, the thyroid gland concentrates it for the production of thyroid hormones. The remaining amount is removed from your child’s body in the form of urine. (3)

Why Do Children Need Iodine?

Iodine is an essential mineral needed for proper growth and development. It is especially vital during pregnancy, and exposure to this mineral in the womb can prevent several diseases at a later age. Generally, this mineral is present in very small amounts in natural foods. When you add this mineral in the form of salt to your child’s diet, it not only enhances the flavor but also meets their iodine requirements in a nutritious diet. Below are several benefits of iodine for your child: (3)

  • Maintains thyroid health
  • Promotes neurodevelopment
  • Supports cognitive functions
  • Improves birth weight
  • Treats infections

Maintains thyroid health: Iodine plays a promising role in maintaining thyroid health in children. The thyroid gland, which is present at the base of the front of your child’s neck, helps to regulate hormone production in the body. These hormones control several important functions in your child’s body including heart rate, metabolism, energy production, and more.

One study found that iodine is mandatory to produce thyroid hormones. Consequently, inadequate iodine intake can decrease the synthesis of thyroid hormones which can lead to hypothyroidism in children. Another study has revealed that, although iodine intake promotes thyroid health in children, too much iodine consumption can harm your child’s thyroid gland. So, always consult your child’s physician before giving iodine supplements to your child. (4)

Promotes neurodevelopment: According to health experts, pregnant women require more iodine because it promotes brain development in infants. The research has revealed that infants whose mothers had an iodine deficiency during conception are more likely to have intellectual delays and low IQ. Therefore, the recommended daily iodine intake during pregnancy is increased to 290 mcg because the iodine you receive from supplements and diet is transferred from breast milk to your infant. In the crucial brain development phase, infants require 110 mcg daily until they have reached the age of 6 months. (5

Supports cognitive functions: Iodine is important for improving cognitive functions in children, and it reduces the risk of intellectual disability in kids. Adequate iodine in your child’s diet promotes their cognitive and learning abilities. (6)

Improves birth weight: Iodine is also responsible for healthy birth weight during pregnancy. One study has demonstrated that pregnant women suffering from goiter (irregular growth of the thyroid gland) who took 400 mg of iodine per day for 8 weeks saw improvement in correcting goiter associated with iodine deficiency. In turn, it also improved birth weight in newborn infants. (4)

Treat infections: Scientific studies have found that the topical application of iodine is effective in preventing and treating infections in children. It is also used to kill pathogens that are present in and around scrapes and mild cuts. You should avoid using topical iodine on newborn infants. Additionally, it must not be used for animal bites, burns, or deep cuts. (4)

What Is Iodine Deficiency?

Iodine deficiency is rare in children because a sufficient amount of this mineral is present in natural foods. Deficiency of this mineral is common in areas that have poor iodine levels in soil that result in low iodine levels in food products and inadequate iodine intake in the general population. (7)

The common signs and symptoms of iodine deficiency in children include:

  • Swelling in the neck
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Flaky and dry skin

Swelling in the neck: Swelling in the front of the neck is the most common symptom of iodine deficiency in children. The condition is known as goiter and happens when the thyroid gland grows too large. This gland produces hormones after getting a signal from the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). The research has shown that when TSH levels of blood raise, the thyroid gland utilizes this mineral to synthesize hormones. On the other hand, when your child’s body has low iodine levels, it ultimately affects the hormone production that reduces their growth and development. (8)

Weakness and fatigue: If your child often complains about fatigue and weakness, then they might be deficient in trace minerals, such as iodine. One study has demonstrated that children suffering from low iodine levels often feel weak, tired, and sluggish. This is because low thyroid hormone levels due to iodine deficiency can affect the energy production in the human body. (9)

Hair loss: Another common sign of iodine deficiency in children is hair loss. This is because thyroid hormones are responsible for controlling the growth of hair follicles. Research has found that low thyroid hormone levels in a child can stop cell regeneration in hair follicles which results in hair loss. Several other scientific studies have connected low iodine levels with hair loss. (10)

Flaky and dry skin: One study has found that children with low thyroid hormone levels often experience flaky and dry skin. This is because thyroid hormones that contain iodine help in the regeneration of skin cells. Additionally, these hormones also regulate sweat glands in your child’s body. Therefore, children with iodine deficiency tend to sweat less as compared to those who have normal thyroid levels. Sweat helps to keep your child’s skin hydrated and moist, so less sweat production can lead to dry and flaky skin. (11)

How Much Iodine Does Your Kid Need per Day?

Dosing recommendations for iodine are given in the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. DRI is the optimal amount of nutrients, which a person needs per day. (1)

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for this mineral is provided in micrograms (mcg) below.

Age Recommended daily amount in micrograms (mcg)
0-6 months 110 mcg
7-12 months 130 mcg
1-3 years 90 mcg
4-8 years 90 mcg
9-13 years 120 mcg
14-18 years 150 mcg
19+ years 150 mcg

Should You Give Iodine Supplements to Your Kids?

Iodine deficiency is rare in children because it is mostly supplied through natural foods. In cases of severe deficiency, you can opt for iodine supplements after the approval of your child’s pediatrician. Supplements for this mineral are available in the form of sodium iodide and potassium iodide. (12)

FoodsThat Are Rich in Iodine

Seaweed, including wakame, kelp, kombu, and nori are the best dietary sources of iodine. Other food sources of this trace mineral are seafood, eggs, and dairy products like yogurt, cheese and milk. Human breast milk and infant formulas also contain a good amount of iodine. Listed below are some foods that contain a good amount of iodine. (1)

 Food Serving size Micrograms (mcg) per serving
Dried seaweed 10 grams 232 mcg
Whole wheat bread 1 slice 199 mcg
Baked cod 3 oz 158 mcg
Cooked oysters 3 oz 93 mcg
Iodized table salt 1/4 tbsp 76 mcg
Cooked fish sticks 3 oz 58 mcg
Boiled pasta 1 cup 36 mcg
Chocolate ice cream 1 cup 21 mcg
Cheddar cheese 1 oz 14 mcg


Risks and Side Effects of Iodine

Excessive intake of iodine supplements can cause several side effects, including runny nose, metallic taste, headache, stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. For some, too much iodine intake can result in swelling of lips and face, severe bruising and bleeding, joint pain, and even death. One study has depicted that mega doses of iodine can lead to several health problems including soreness of gums and teeth, increased saliva production, thyroid problems, depression, wasting, skin problems, and burning in the throat and mouth. (12)

Research has found that mega doses of iodine are unsafe for adults and children. Adults must avoid using doses larger than 1100 mcg per day. For children aged 1 to 3 years, the upper tolerable limit (UL) of this mineral is 200 mcg, for children aged 4 to 8 years is 300 mcg, and for children aged 9 to 13 years is 600 mcg.


Iodine is an essential trace mineral that is naturally present in several foods and also available in the form of dietary supplements. This mineral performs several important functions in your child’s body and primarily regulates the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. This gland is responsible for controlling numerous metabolic reactions, growth, and brain development in children. Deficiency of this mineral can lead to several health problems in children, including swelling in the neck, weakness, fatigue, hair loss, and flaky and dry skin. It is important to provide an adequate amount of iodine to your child, ideally in their daily diet, to maintain optimal health!


1. https://ods.od.nih.gov/HealthProfessional
2. https://ods.od.nih.gov/Iodine-Consumer
3. https://www.webmd.com/health-benefits-iodine
4. https://www.healthline.com/iodine-uses#uses
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26268911
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25231449
7. https://www.everydayhealth.com/iodine-deficiency
8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278958
9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PMC2895281
10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10792210
11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PMC3219173
12. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/iodine



Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not use this information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.