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Anemia in Children: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
What is Anemia in Children?
Anemia in children is a critical health issue, especially in India, where at least 67% of children (6-59 months) have anemia, according to the National Family Health Survey conducted in 2015-16 (NFHS-4). Anemia is a condition in which the body lacks enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. There are several types of anemia in children, including Iron deficiency anemia, Megaloblastic anemia, Hemolytic anemia, Sickle cell anemia, and Cooley’s anemia (thalassemia), and the cause of anemia depends on the type. In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of anemia in children. We will also provide suggestions for preventing nutritional anemias in children and managing anemia if your child has an inherited red blood cell disorder.
What Causes Anemia in Children?
There are different things that can cause anemia in children.
- Sometimes it’s because they don’t have enough iron in their body, a mineral that helps make red blood cells.
- Other times, it’s due to an illness or something they were born with.
- Your child may become anemic if their body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells, destroys too many red blood cells, or loses red blood cells through bleeding. This can happen if they don’t have enough iron or other nutrients in their diet, have an inherited red blood cell disorder or underlying illness, or experience long-term, low-grade blood loss.
What are the common signs and symptoms of Anemia?
If your child is anemic, they may experience common signs and symptoms such as
- pale or yellowish skin
- irregular heartbeats
- shortness of breath
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- chest pain
- cold hands and feet
It’s important to take note of these symptoms and seek medical attention if you suspect your child may be anemic. By understanding the causes and symptoms of anemia in children, you can take steps to prevent it and ensure your child maintains good health.
Symptoms that children with severe Anemia may also experience include:
Children who have severe anemia may display a range of additional signs and symptoms. These may include
- a rapid heart rate
- delayed growth and development
- poor appetite
- an enlarged spleen or liver
Furthermore, these children may have a higher risk of developing infections and may take longer to recover from illnesses.
When children consume non-food items, this is known as pica. Pica can be a symptom of iron deficiency anemia. Children with iron deficiency anemia may experience cravings for non-nutritive substances like ice, dirt, paint, or starch. It is essential to talk to a doctor if you notice your child eating non-food items to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.
How is Anemia Diagnosed?
To diagnose anemia, doctors may inquire about medical and family history, perform a physical examination, and carry out blood tests. A complete blood count (CBC) is a typical blood test used to diagnose anemia, which measures the number of blood cells in a blood sample. The doctor will be interested in the levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin in the blood. In certain cases, additional diagnostic tests may be necessary to determine the root cause of anemia. This may involve analyzing a sample of bone marrow to diagnose certain types of anemia.
What can I do to keep my kid from getting Anemia?
There are various ways to prevent children from becoming anemic.
- One of the most effective ways is to ensure that they eat a healthy and balanced diet that includes iron-rich foods like meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, cereals, and milk. This will provide the necessary nutrition and energy for their growth.
- It is also important to provide foods that are rich in vitamin C since this vitamin aids the body in absorbing iron from plant-based foods. Fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C such as oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, and bell peppers can be offered to your child.
- Folic acid and vitamin B12 are two essential vitamins that are important for the production of red blood cells. Leafy green vegetables, fruits, nuts, and beans are some of the foods that are rich in folic acid, while meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products are rich in vitamin B12. Ensuring that your child consumes a diet that is rich in these vitamins can help prevent nutritional anemias.
- If your child is at risk of iron deficiency anemia, their doctor may suggest iron supplements.
- It’s also crucial to limit their consumption of cow’s milk to no more than 24 ounces (710 milliliters) a day between the ages of 1 and 5. As Cow milk can interfere with iron absorption and cause intestinal bleeding.
If my child has a hereditary red blood cell problem, how can I treat Anemia?
If your child has an inherited red blood cell disorder that causes anemia, it is important to work closely with their doctor to manage the condition. The management of anemia caused by inherited red blood cell disorders may require different approaches based on their pathophysiology.
For example, if your child has sickle cell anemia, treatment may include pain relief medication, antibiotics to prevent infections, blood transfusions, and hydroxyurea, a medication that can reduce the frequency of pain crises and acute chest syndrome.
It is important to have an accurate and timely diagnosis to avoid inappropriate interventions and prevent complications.
- Anemia is a condition in which the body lacks enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues, and it’s prevalent in Indian children.
- The causes of anemia in children vary, but they can be related to the body’s inability to produce, destroy or lose enough red blood cells.
- Anemia in children can display a range of symptoms, and it’s important to diagnose and treat it to prevent further health issues.
- Preventing anemia in children can be achieved through a balanced diet that includes iron-rich foods, vitamin C, folic acid, and vitamin B12