Anemia in children is a growing concern today, mainly because of the change in our American diets. More and more families are changing the way they eat and are implementing new dietary restrictions in their homes, including what they feed to their kids. Although these changes can be beneficial, sometimes they can leave you with a diet that is lacking certain essential nutrients, particularly iron.
My son and I both have Sickle-cell trait, which leaves us both slightly anemic. I had no idea I even had sickle-cell trait until I was doing bloodwork during my pregnancy. I was horrified! And then when I learned I had passed the trait to my son, I felt major guilt. Why did he have to get this too? What does this mean? Is he going to be ok?
Truth is, most people with sickle-cell trait and/or anemia live completely normal and healthy lives. We just need more iron from time to time. But I think it is important to share my story with other moms and also give a few tips on anemia and how to spot it in your child. No need to freak out mama, I got you 🙂
So what exactly is Anemia?
Generally, anemia is defined as a hemoglobin level of less than the 5th percentile for any age. Basically, it means there are not enough red blood cells in the body. In children, when the number of red blood cells in the body is decreased below what is considered normal for your child’s age, it creates an anemic condition.
How does a child become anemic?
Your child may experience anemia for several reasons. The three most common causes of anemia in children are:
- Your child’s body simply does not produce enough red blood cells. This can be genetic, or simply because they do not get enough Iron or other nutrients in their diet. This condition is known as iron-deficiency anemia.
- Your child’s body continually destroys too many red blood cells. This typically comes from an underlying illness or red blood cell disorder such as sickle-cell. This condition is known as called sickle-cell anemia.
- Your child loses red blood cells through blood loss. This type of anemia tends to occur from obvious blood loss, such as menstrual bleeding.
How will I know if my child is anemic?
Anemia in younger children isn’t always easy to spot and is best determined by bloodwork. Typically, anemia makes your child appear pale in color, and feel make them feel weak and very cranky. Anemic children tend to lose energy faster than those who do not, especially in high-altitude climates. The cells in your child’s muscles and organs need oxygen to survive, and decreased numbers of red blood cells can place a lot of stress on their small body. The average anemic child may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Pale, gray or ashy skin
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart rate
- Swollen hands and feet
Some children who have anemia caused by low-iron levels may experience Pica, an eating disorder that causes the body to crave to eat strange things such as soap, dirt and other toxic items.
Can anemia in children be cured?
Although the symptoms of anemia can be serious and may worry you, anemia in children is generally easy to treat, especially when it is detected early.
If your child is showing any of these signs or symptoms, please make sure you go and see your pediatrician as soon as possible. Even low levels of anemia can have an effect on your child’s focus, energy and overall ability to learn. Chronic iron deficiency anemia is a serious condition that can result in permanent impairment of development, so make sure you have your child’s blood work done regularly!
*This post was done in collaboration with Renzos Vitamins
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