What Should You Know about Anaemia in Children?

Red blood cells in our body carry oxygen from lungs to different organs and body parts, and carry carbon dioxide from body cells back to the lungs to be expelled out. Inside these cells are complex pigmented molecules called haemoglobin, carrying iron ions, which facilitate loose binding of oxygen molecules for transportation.

A deficiency of enough red blood cells or haemoglobin leads to a condition called Anaemia. It is a disease highly prevalent in children worldwide. Globally 1.62 billion people are affected by this condition, out of which the highest prevalence (47.4%) is in pre-school age children, according to the World Health Organization. India accounts for a huge portion of these cases; 58.6% of children, despite having an anaemia control programme for last 5 decades, according to an article on Business Standard.

Childhood anaemia poses a major risk for impaired cognitive and physical development, and in extreme cases could be fatal too. Improved knowledge about this condition is the best way to tackle the disease. If your child shows the following symptoms, it’s time to search online for “child specialists near me”, to get the best treatment options.

Common Symptoms of Anaemia

Although Anaemia has various causes and manifestations, these have been observed as some of the common symptoms of lack of oxygen in blood:

  • Lack of energy or getting tired easily
  • Irritability
  • Breathlessness
  • Poor wound healing
  • Enlarged liver of spleen
  • Jaundice; yellowing of eyes, mouth and skin
  • Dark tea coloured urine
  • Pale skin, cheeks or lips
  • Lining of eyelids and nail beds lack pinkish tinge

Some cases of severe anaemia may show symptoms like:

  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness

If your child shows any of these symptoms, get in touch with a paediatrician as soon as possible.

Anaemia and Its Types

Anaemia has 3 main causes; inability to create enough red blood cells, loss of red blood cells and destruction of red blood cells. Depending on these factors, there are many types of anaemia. The one caused by iron deficiency is most common one. Babies born prematurely or having low birth weight, babies who suffer from childhood obesity or babies who are not provided breast milk before the age of 1, are some examples of children who have a high risk of being iron deficient.

But, there are other kinds of Anaemia as well. For instance, children are often born with a condition called ‘Sickle Cell Anaemia’, where red blood cells are crescent shaped or C-shaped, rather than being disk-shaped and flexible. This impairs normal blood flow, and prevents oxygen from getting anywhere in the body. Sickle cell disorder is the most common inherited blood disorder in the US, and every year approximately 2000 babies are born with this disease there, according to an article on American Academy of Pediatrics.

Lack of Vitamin B12 or folic acid can cause megaloblastic anaemia. When red blood cells are destroyed due to certain causes like medications or infections, a condition called haemolytic anaemia is caused.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Anaemia

Blood tests or ‘Complete Blood Count (CBC)” is necessary to diagnose Anaemia. Remember, often children have mild to no symptoms of this condition. Usually the blood tests will include:

  • Haemoglobin and haematocrit count– To measure the amount of haemoglobin and red blood cells in blood.
  • CBC– To check for both red and white blood cells, along with platelets, packed cell volume (PCV), young red blood cells (reticulocytes) and other key numbers.
  • Peripheral smear– To check if the size and shape of red blood cells are normal.

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, causes, age and general health. For iron deficiency, the doctor may prescribe iron supplements with multi-vitamins and minerals. You might be asked to put special focus on your child’s diet, and include more iron-rich foods like milk, nuts, eggs, beans, potatoes and pulses and green leafy vegetables. Baby formula fortified with iron might also help.

For serious conditions, paediatricians have many treatment paths like medications, blood transfusion, and surgery and stem-cell therapy.

If you are wondering, is there a child specialist near me, you should know that some of the best paediatricians work in Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Get in touch today to provide timely treatment for your child.