Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Is Your Child Anaemic

young girl sitting quietlyAnaemia is not a disease but rather a symptom. Anaemia saps energy in children. Dr. J.L. Seth, paediatrician,  says, “Anaemia is haemoglobin levels less than 11 gm per decileter (100 millileters). It is common in children, more so in the children belonging to lower economic backgrounds. Even children coming from higher income strata are not immune and may get anaemic at some point in their lives.”

What causes anaemia?

There are many possible causes of anemia in children.

  • Infection. Children may be temporarily anaemic if they become ill with a virus or chronic inflammation. The virus slows the body’s ability to produce haemoglobin. Dr. Seth informs, “ Hook worms are a common cause of anaemia in children as it makes them lose blood in stool.”
  • Chronic anaemia. Inherited conditions that affect the production of healthy red blood cells can result in chronic anemia, such as thalassemia or sickle cell anemia.
  • Nutritional deficiency. In order to make enough healthy red blood cells, the body needs sufficient intake of iron, B-12, and folic acid. Children may be at risk for iron deficiency anemia at certain stages of life.
  • Genetic causes. Some newborns may be born with anaemia owing to genetic causes.

The energy sapper

 
To understand what anaemia does, we need to know the role of red blood cells in our body. Each time we breathe in, oxygen travels on red blood cells in our blood stream to reach all our body parts. If our body has low levels of RBC it means our body is getting starved off oxygen. Prolonged anaemia can result in tissue damage, warns Dr. Seth. The New England Journal of Medicine reported on a long-term study of iron deficient infants. Complete in 1991, the study showed that infants with low levels of iron also had lower I.Q. scores and impaired mental functions, when tested at age five.
 

Symptoms

  1. Pale looks
  2. Fatigue
  3. Irritable
  4. Development less than normal
  5. Weak muscle tone

Preventing anaemia

 
Iron-deficiency anaemia and other nutritional anaemias can be prevented easily. Just make sure that your child eats a well balanced diet and follows these precautions:

  • Do not give your infant cow’s milk until he is older than a year.
  •  If you breastfeed your child, give her iron-fortified foods such as cereals when solid foods are introduced.
  • Before then, she will absorb enough iron from breast milk. If you choose to solely breastfeed beyond four months, an iron supplement is recommended. However, the introduction of iron-poor solid foods will decrease the amount of iron your baby absorbs from the milk.
  •  If you decide to formula feed your baby, give her a formula enriched with iron.
  •  Make sure your older child has a well-balanced diet and eats foods, like—meat, chicken, eggs and leafy greens that contain iron. Besides, many grains and cereals are iron-fortified. Other good sources of iron include green and yellow vegetables, yellow fruits, potatoes, tomatoes, molasses and raisins.
  • Also, to increase the iron content of your entire family’s diet, use the fruit pulp in juices and cook potatoes with the skins on.
  •  Make your child eat many servings of fresh fruits, because iron needs a push of vitamin C for better absorption.

 
Iron Medication

When giving iron medication, follow these tips–
 Avoid giving iron with milk because calcium in milk interferes with the absorption of iron.
 Vitamin C increases iron absorption, so you might want to follow the dose of iron with a glass of orange juice.
 Since liquid iron tends to turn the teeth a grayish-black color, have your child swallow it rapidly and then rinse his mouth with water. You may want to brush your child’s teeth after every dose of iron. Although tooth-staining by iron is unattractive, it is not permanent.
 Iron medications cause the stools to become a dark black color. Don’t be worried by this change.
Warning–

Keep iron medications out of the reach of children. Iron medications are extremely poisonous if taken in excessive amounts.

 

Archana Darshan

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