According to the WHO definition, Anemia is a medical condition characterized by a lack of a sufficient number of red blood cells in the body or an insufficiency in their capacity to carry oxygen due to which a person faces difficulties in meeting physiological needs. In children, anaemia can be caused due to various reasons, based on which several types of anaemia have been identified.
- Iron deficiency anaemia
- Sickle cell anaemia
- Cooley’s anaemia or Thalassemia
- Aplastic anaemia
- Chronic anaemia
- Megaloblastic or macrocytic anaemia
The most common causes of anaemia are:
One of the common causes of anaemia is deficiencies in vitamins and minerals; Iron deficiency has been known to cause anaemia, as well as deficiency in vitamin B12 which causes macrocytic anaemia. Anemia may also be caused due to a deficiency in the enzyme G6PD which is the enzyme involved in processing carbohydrates in the body to produce energy.
Anemia may be caused due to certain inherited genetic features such as the inherited condition of producing red blood cells which are damaged (commonly associated with hemolytic anaemia) or abnormal, distorted, or sickle-shaped (commonly associated with the sickle cell and Cooley’s anaemia). In some cases, children may inherit a condition of the fragility of RBCs in which RBCs are easily destroyed, called spherocytosis.
Many cases of anaemia have been attributed to certain other physiological factors such as the inability of the bone marrow to produce RBCs and WBCs (leading to aplastic anaemia).
Prolonged medical conditions, especially those which are accompanied by inflammation, may lead to anaemia such as in the case of chronic anaemia.
Some common behavioural symptoms of anaemia in children include:
- Unusual food cravings
- Loss of appetite
Common physiological symptoms of anaemia in children include:
- Fatigue or severe exhaustion
- Fast/rapid heartbeat/ heart rate
- Swelling or soreness of the tongue
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent headaches
- Delay in growth/development
- Paleness of the skin and whites of the eyes
- Brittle nails
Another common sign that may indicate anaemia in children is apparent lack or impairment of healing of wounds caused due to slow healing of tissue.
Treatment of anaemia in children:
The treatment of anaemia depends on various factors including the type and severity of the anaemia, the cause of the disorder, the child’s tolerance to different medications, age and overall health of the child - consult your healthcare provider for more information.
In cases involving deficiencies, intervention programs would include changes in diet and supplements for the substances that are deficient.
For cases in which anaemia is caused due to another disorder, it may be necessary to treat the causal disorder in order to treat the anaemia.
In cases involving other biological factors, treatment may require medications, surgery, antibiotics, blood transfusion, or even transplant (bone marrow).
There are certain measures that can be taken to facilitate the prevention of anaemia, which includes the preventing nutritional deficiencies by ensuring a well-balanced diet with all the necessary nutrients for the normal and healthy growth of a child. However, it must be kept in mind that these preventive measures can only prevent certain types of anaemia; inherited conditions of anaemia may not be preventable, only treatable. Consult your healthcare provider to know what option is the optimal one for your child.