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Anemia in Children

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Dullness, weakness, easily fatigued, lack of concentration, pale skin, etc. describes your child’s symptoms? If yes, then the child may be suffering from anemia. Let us learn more about anemia in children from the article given below.

What is Anemia?

Anemia is the medical term for iron deficiency in the body. Iron is a very important nutrient for growth and development of children. It is required for moving oxygen from the lungs to other areas of the body. Iron also helps muscles store and utilize oxygen appropriately. It is also very essential for brain development. When a child’s diet lacks the important nutrient iron, it leads to anemia.

It found babies, toddlers, children as well as teenagers are more prone to iron deficiency. This is because their diet doesn’t contain enough iron required for their growth. Also, children tend to be fussy eaters or do not eat enough food are more prone to iron deficiency. Children who live in poverty or live in developing countries, lack iron-rich nutritious food in their diet.

Is Anemia Dangerous for Children?

Anemia, if left untreated, can lead to many complications in children. Iron deficiency can lead to mental and physical problems. In many cases, these problems are irreversible and permanent. Anemia can also make children more susceptible to lead poisoning. Lack of iron makes children prone to recurrent infections.

Children with iron deficiency, lack mental alertness, have a short attention span and are easily fatigued. This causes problems in school and the child suffers academically.

How Do I Spot Symptoms of Anemia?

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As an alert parent, it is important to note certain physical and developmental changes in the child. Understanding the symptoms of anemia can help you seek timely medical help and make changes in your child’s diet to overcome the iron deficiency. Some of the symptoms of anemia include:

  • Pale, gray or ashen color of skin
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Slow cognitive ability
  • Irritability
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Increased cravings for ice, starch, dirt, chalk, paint, etc.
  • Lack of concentration
  • Short attention span
  • Decreased social interaction

Who Are At Risk Of Anemia

  • Children who are born premature or with low birth weight are more commonly affected with iron deficiency.
  • Babies who are fed cow’s milk before they are 1 year of age
  • Breastfed babies who are not given iron-fortified food
  • Children in the age group of 1 to 5 years of age who drink more than 24 ounces of cow’s milk a day
  • Children who are exposed to lead
  • Children with chronic infections or restricted diet
  • Adolescent girls are at higher risk of iron deficiency, due to loss of blood during menstruation

Diagnosis of Anemia

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If anemia is suspected, the doctor will ask for a blood test like complete blood count (CBC) to check the level of hemoglobin in blood. Low levels of hemoglobin indicate anemia.

How is Anemia Treated in Children?

It is important to increase the dietary intake of iron in children. In many cases, changes in diet is not enough. One needs to give the child iron supplement tonics or tablets as prescribed by the pediatrician.

The diet of the child should include the following foods:

  • Iron fortified cereal, pasta, bread, grains
  • Lean means, liver, fish, etc.
  • Eggs, especially egg yolk
  • Leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli
  • Beans and legumes
  • Peanut butter
  • Bananas
  • Less of cow’s milk and more of iron-rich formulas or other foods

Make sure you take the advice of your doctor, before you try anything new in the diet of your child. Too much iron is also toxic for children.

Iron deficiency can be prevented with proper diet. Severe anemia can affect the mental as well as physical development of your child. Thus, make sure your child has an iron-rich diet and follow the pediatrician’s or dietician’s advice in case of anemia in children.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 01, 2015