Doc Talk: Your Fatigued Child Could Be Anaemic

 

fatigued kid having anaemiafatigued kid having anaemia

 

Most children are cheerful and energetic with no care in the world. But some kids could be facing severe problems like fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of energy and dizziness. These are signs of iron deficiency that leads to anaemia.

 

Anaemia is a common blood disorder that occurs when the level of hemoglobin or healthy red blood cells (RBCs) in the body becomes lower than normal levels. The Prevalence of Anaemia in young children continues to remain over 70% in most parts of India.

 

Iron deficiency anaemia occurs when the body isn't able to produce enough healthy RBCs. The most common cause in children is poor dietary iron intake or excessive loss of iron from the body. Iron deficiency anaemia can affect children at any age, but is most common in those younger than 2 years old. Young children who take predominantly milk in diet are at increased risk for iron deficiency. Girls going through puberty also have a particularly high risk for iron deficiency anemia because of the onset of menstruation; the monthly blood loss increases the amount of iron they need to consume in their diet. Among many other causes, anemia can result from deficiency of other nutrients (like folic acid and Vitamin B12),worm infestation, inherited disorders (like sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia, G6PD deficiency) chronic infections, diarrhea or exposure to a drugs and toxic substances like lead ingestion.

 

Symptoms of Anaemia 

 

If your child has anaemia, he/she will appear pale. Other common symptoms can be irritability, fatigue, dizziness, light headedness, decreased concentration and eating nonfood items i.e. pica. In infants and preschoolers, iron deficiency anaemia can result in developmental delays and behavioral problems such as decreased activity and problems with social interaction and attention to tasks. 

 

Diagnosis

 

Anaemia can be diagnosed by Complete Blood Count (CBC). Other diagnostic tests like serum Iron and Ferritin can help to determine whether anaemia is due to iron deficiency. Evaluation by your pediatrician for cause and complete treatment is important. 

 

Treatment

 

If a child has iron deficiency anaemia, iron supplementation as prescribed must be taken for as long as 3 months to rebuild the body's store of iron. Adding certain iron-rich foods to your child's diet or reducing milk intake is advisable. In adolescent girls heavy or irregular menstrual periods should be treated to regulate the bleeding. Folic acid and vitamin B12 supplements may be prescribed.

 

Prevention

 

For the first 6 months the babies have stores of iron built up during pregnancy, but after 6 months breast milk alone or regular cow's milk (which contains less iron than fortified infant formula) does not provide adequate iron. Regular cow's milk is not recommended for children until they are 1 year old and start eating an iron-rich diet. In addition, they should not drink more than 24-32 ounces (709-946 ml) of milk each day including breast milk. If you can't get your child to eat more iron-rich foods provide iron supplementation. Iron-fortified cereal and formula milk can ensure enough iron during the transition from breast milk or formula to solid foods.

 

Ensure that your child regularly gets foods that contain iron like iron-fortified grains and cereals, red meat, egg yolks, leafy green vegetables, yellow vegetables and fruits, tomatoes, molasses, and raisins.

 

A vegetarian will need to make an extra effort to ensure sufficient iron sources because iron found in meat, poultry, and fish is more easily absorbed than iron in plant-based foods. Also drinking coffee or tea (including iced tea) with a meal can significantly lower the amount of iron absorbed. On the other hand, vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron so vitamin C rich food like Oranges and citrus fruits should be included in the diet

 

This article is written by Dr Amit Tyagi, Associate Consultant, Paediatrics, Department of Neonatal, Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine, BLK Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi.

Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/ Getty Images

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