Anemia is a common problem in children. About 20% of children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with anemia at some point. A child who has anemia does not have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a type of protein that allows red blood cells to carry oxygen to other cells in the body.
There are many types of anemia. Your child may have one of the following:
Anemia has 3 main causes:
Decreased red blood cells or hemoglobin levels may be due to:
Risk factors for anemia include:
Most symptoms of anemia are due to the lack of oxygen in the cells. Many of the symptoms are not present with mild anemia.
These are the most common symptoms:
The symptoms of anemia may look like other blood problems or health conditions. Anemia is often a symptom of another disease. Be sure to report any symptoms to your child’s doctor. Always see your child's doctor for a diagnosis.
Because anemia is common in children, doctors do routine screening for it. Plus, it often has no symptoms. Most anemia in children is diagnosed with these blood tests:
To get a blood sample, a healthcare provider will insert a needle into a vein, usually in the child's arm or hand. A tourniquet may be wrapped around the child's arm to help the healthcare provider find a vein. Blood is drawn up into a syringe or a test tube. In some cases, blood can be taken using a needle prick.
Blood tests may cause a little discomfort while the needle is inserted. It may cause some bruising or swelling. After the blood is removed, the healthcare provider will remove the tourniquet, put pressure on the area, and put on a bandage.
Depending on the results of the blood tests, your child may also have a:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
The treatment for anemia depends on the cause. Some types do not require treatment. Some types may require medicine, blood transfusions, surgery, or stem cell transplants. Your child's healthcare provider may refer you to a hematologist. This is a specialist in treating blood disorders. Treatment may include:
The complications of anemia depend on what is causing it. Some types have few complications, but others have frequent and serious complications. Some anemias may cause:
Some types of anemia are inherited and can’t be prevented. Iron deficiency anemia, a common form of anemia, may be prevented by making sure your child gets enough iron in his/her diet. This is done by the following:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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