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Childhood Anemia: What Parents Need to Know

What is pediatric anemia?|What are the symptoms of pediatric anemia?|What causes pediatric anemia?|Home Remedies and Treatment|Prevention
Childhood Anemia: What Parents Need to Know

What is pediatric anemia?

Have you ever noticed your child looking tired, weak, and a bit pale? Do they often stop playing abruptly due to shortness of breath or dizziness? If this has been going on for a while, perhaps it is time to go see a doctor to check if they have pediatric anemia.

As parents, we want to see our children happy and active. We want to see them play and interact with other kids, make friends, explore, and basically have fun. But that is difficult if they are suffering from pediatric anemia.

Pediatric anemia is a condition where the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen to other tissues of the body. This leads a child to look very pale and their energy easily runs out after just a few minutes of physical activity.

For children, the most common culprit is iron deficiency. This means that they are not getting enough iron from their diet.

pediatric anemia

What are the symptoms of pediatric anemia?

If a child is suffering from pediatric anemia caused by iron deficiency, you may observe that they are easily tired and have no energy to play for extended periods.

Symptoms of Anemia in Children

They may also exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Weak and easily fatigued
  • Unusually pale, yellowish skin
  • Experiences shortness of breath when they exert physical effort
  • Recurring headaches
  • Bouts of dizziness and lightheadedness, fainting spells
  • Chest pain and irregular heartbeats
  • Cold hands and feet

Initially, symptoms of anemia in children may be hard to notice. You may just think that your child is tired from playing too much, that is why they are experiencing shortness of breath.

You may not notice a change in their complexion because it is very subtle. You may not even suspect that anything is wrong until the symptoms worsen and become more evident.

That is why it is important to consult your doctor if you are concerned that your child might have anemia.

What causes pediatric anemia?

Knowing that your child is suffering from pediatric anemia because of iron deficiency is just a small part of the big picture.

It is important to know what the causes are behind this iron deficiency in children in order to address the condition properly.

Common Causes of Pediatric Anemia

The following are the most common causes of anemia in children:

Low iron diet

The only way your child gets iron is by consuming it through food. But even with iron-rich food, only a small amount can be absorbed by their bodies.

Infancy is a crucial time for them to get enough iron, since the only way they can get nourished is through breastfeeding. Mothers with anemia may not have enough iron in their body, so even when they breastfeed regularly, their child will not get enough.

Breastfeeding is still the best milk for babies. The mother will need to be supplemented with iron, if she does not have enough iron in her body.

As for toddlers who are fussy-eaters, they will not be able to get enough iron if they eat iron rich foods like red meat and eggs. It is important to teach them to eat a balanced diet. If they only consume a small amount of meat or eggs per meal, try to feed them smaller meals throughout the day.

Aside from meat products, iron can also be found in plant products like dark green, leafy vegetables, beans and lentils, iron-fortified cereals, and tofu. With these options, you can pair up meats and plant products for an enriched meal that can encourage your child to eat.

Body changes

Children do not stay small for long, and they often experience growth spurts throughout their childhood. When this happens, their bodies will need more iron and other nutrients to sustain their growth. Thus, their diets must be adjusted.

If you notice that your children are showing signs of tiredness or fatigue, give them vitamins or supplements with iron to complement the meals that they eat.

Gastrointestinal tract problems

If you have been feeding your child enough iron-rich foods yet they are still anemic, perhaps there is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed.

One possibility is that their bodies may not be absorbing the iron properly. Poor iron absorption is a sign of gastrointestinal problems, especially after some form of gastrointestinal surgery.

For these situations, it is best to consult a gastroenterologist, and see what can be done to improve your child’s anemia.

Home Remedies and Treatment

Addressing pediatric anemia can be as simple as changing their diets to an iron-rich one.

Here’s what you can include in their diet:

  • red meats like beef, pork, lamb, and organ meats
  • poultry products like chicken, turkey, as well as eggs
  • leafy green vegetables, like broccoli, kale, and cabbage
  • beans like green peas, lima beans, and more.

Combining these to make an enticing meal for your child is the key to making them eat anemia-busting foods.

You can complement their diets with supplements like iron drops or pills.

These can be taken over a few months, during their growth spurts, to increase their iron levels. Then after 3 months of taking the supplement, a doctor will typically recommend a follow-up consultation.

For advice on dietary changes and supplements, consult your pediatrician.

Prevention

Depending on your child’s age and general health, methods to avoid pediatric anemia may vary.

For prevention in their early months or years, your children need to get enough iron from what they eat. For breastfeeding infants, they can be given a daily iron supplement, since they can not eat iron-rich foods.

Once they can start eating, toddlers can safely be fed iron-rich foods, including iron-fortified cereals, red meats, and vegetables. It also helps to give them fruits rich in vitamin C, as this helps their body absorb more iron.

Best First Foods for Babies at 6 Months

Learn more about child health, here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20351360

https://childrensnational.org/visit/conditions-and-treatments/blood-marrow/anemia-irondeficiency

https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions—pediatrics/a/anemia-in-children.html

https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/vitamins-minerals/iron.html

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/foods-high-in-iron

https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/vitamins-minerals/iron.html

https://childrensnational.org/visit/conditions-and-treatments/blood-marrow/anemia-irondeficiency

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/foods-high-in-iron

https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions—pediatrics/a/anemia-in-children.html

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Written by Tracey Romero Updated Jul 06, 2020
Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, M.D.
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