Anaemia has some very distinctive symptoms, it can affect your child’s energy levels and even cause breathlessness.
We recently spoke with top consultant paediatrician, Dr Kishor Tewary, about this condition to find out how common it is. He let us know what causes it and kindly gave some top tips on how it can be treated.
How common is anaemia in children?
Anaemia is very common in children, where the red blood cells or the haemoglobin is less than normal in the blood. It is most commonly due to a lack of iron, named as iron-deficiency anaemia.
Is anaemia in children always caused by an iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common cause in children, and usually happens due to lack of proper iron intake in the diet. With an increasing amount of exposure to junk food, and an unbalanced diet, this is becoming more commonly found in children nowadays. Sometimes despite a proper intake, iron may not be absorbed adequately. For example, this can happen if a child is taking too much of cow’s milk which can block iron absorption.
Anaemia less commonly can happen due to lack of red blood cells due to loss of blood i.e. after an acute haemorrhage or long term loss with heavy periods or certain gastro-enteroloy conditions, mostly through stool. It can also occur sometimes due to destruction of red blood cells, this can happen after exposure to certain drugs, viruses, congenital haemoglobinopathies, or toxins.
Very rarely this can be a part of other blood conditions, where the red bloods cells are not being produced enough. This is uncommon and can happen after certain viral infections, certain medications, or auto-immune reactions.
Iron deficiency is picked up through a simple blood test called full blood count, which shows the red blood cell spectrum and the amount of haemoglobin in blood, this carries oxygen in the blood. Often doctors may ask for checking iron stores in blood as well.
Sometimes there may be other special tests required, including a bone-marrow examination, if the cause of anaemia is thought to be other than a simple Iron deficiency such as excessive breakdown of red blood cells (haemolysis), or inadequate production (aplasia/dysplasia).
What signs should parents look out for in their children for anaemia?
Mild anaemia is usually an incidental finding picked up in blood test carried out due to some other reasons. A moderate to severe anaemia can present with pallor, lethargy, easy fatigue, and sometimes shortness of breath and poor exercise tolerance.
Anaemia due to other causes other than iron deficiency may present itself with lack of well-being, pale or yellow skin and or breathlessness. A child can present with bruises if other cell lines are also involved. Very rarely there may be enlarged abdominal organs found on examination such as liver and spleen in a haemolytic cause.
Will anaemia in children go away with treatment?
A mild to moderate Iron – deficiency anaemia is a well treatable condition with iron supplementation and dietary interventions. This can further be prevented from recurring with an adequate diet rich in iron.
There are ways to increase the amount of iron in the diet as well as medication. Foods rich in iron include:
- Beans and lentils
- Apricots, prunes and raisins
- Leafy green vegetables
Many cereals are now also fortified with iron and minerals. Severe anaemia may need hospitalisation for further investigations and occasionally transfusions of red blood cells.
If your child is currently experiencing anaemia, and you need more guidance it is recommended you consult with a paediatrician. Visit Dr Kishor Tewary’s Top Doctors profile today for information on appointment availability.