Lazy Mornings, Tiring Noons and Sleepless Nights | Iron Deficiency in Kids
Anemia is a condition in which the red blood cell count is lower than that of normal for your child’s age. This condition may make your child appear pale in color and feel cranky, tired or weak. Anemia is easy to treat, especially when it is detected early through the symptoms may worry you. Red blood cells are filled with hemoglobin, a special pigmented protein that makes it possible to carry and deliver oxygen to other cells in the body. The cells in your child’s muscles and organs need oxygen to survive, and decreased numbers of red blood cells can place stress on the body.
Rapid growth is a potential cause of the condition and the first year of life and adolescence are two age groups where infants and children are especially prone to anemia. Your kid may become anemic if his or her body does not produce enough red blood cells, destroys too many red blood cells or loses red blood cells through bleeding. Your kid’s body does not produce enough RBC when the diet does not have enough iron and is generally termed as iron-deficiency anemia. In other case, such as Sickle-cell anemia happens when the kid has an underlying illness or has inherited a RBC disorder. And in rare cases, anemia can happen due to obvious blood loss such as long term low grade blood loss, perhaps in the stool.
The common signs and symptoms of anemia include pale or gray skin and the skin lying of eyelids and nail beds may look pink than normal. The kid with anemia may feel tired most times with mild weakness and can be easily irritated. Children experiencing RBC destruction may become jaundiced which causes yellowish skin and eyes. And in some cases, children with severe anemia may have symptoms such as shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, and swollen hands and feet. You may also notice children having anemia may have a strange habit of eating ice, dirt, clay or cornstarch which is termed as “Pica”. It is not harmful unless your child eats something toxic, such as lead paint chips. Usually, the pica stops after the anemia is treated and as the child grows older.
To prevent nutritional anemia:
- Do not give your baby cow’s milk until he or she is over 12 months old. Giving cow’s milk before your child is ready may cause blood loss in his or her stool and can also decrease the amount of iron absorbed in the gut. If you are breastfeeding: Your baby will have an adequate supply of iron until at least 4 months of age. After that time, if your child continues to be breastfed and has begun taking solid food, give him foods with added iron. Talk to your pediatrician about foods best suited for this purpose. If you formula-feed your baby: Give your baby formula with added iron. Low-iron formula can result in iron-deficiency anemia.
- Avoid giving your older children more than 2 cups a day of whole cow’s milk. Milk is low in iron and can make children feel full, which can decrease the amount of other iron rich foods they eat.
- Feed older children a well-balanced diet with foods that contain iron. Many grains and cereals have added iron (check labels to be sure). Other good sources of iron include red meat, egg yolks, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, molasses, and raisins.
- Encourage the whole family to drink citrus juice or eat other foods high in Vitamin C to increase the body’s absorption of iron. Although green vegetables contain lots of iron, the iron from many vegetables comes in a form that is difficult for your body to absorb, but Vitamin C can help.
To prevent anemia in children with inherited red blood cell disorders, your pediatrician will likely refer you to a pediatric hematologist to provide you with supportive care and education on your child’s specific condition.
If your child starts to show any signs or symptoms of anemia, be sure to tell your pediatrician. Also, find out if anyone in your family has a history of anemia or problems with easy bleeding. With proper treatment, your child’s anemia should improve quickly.
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