Blood plays an important role in our bodies. It helps transport oxygen and antibodies helps regulate body temperature and helps transport waste products to the kidney and liver, thereby cleansing the body. That is the reason why blood forms around 7% of the body weight and 45% of the blood are made of red blood cells (RBC). When blood lacks enough RBCs to perform these crucial functions or does not have enough hemoglobin to carry oxygen, it leads to a condition called anemia.
Children are usually “rosy-cheeked”, but if they have a pale, yellow or ashen skin and eyes and not-so-pink lips and nails, then they may have anemia. Another indication may be a blue tinge in the eye whites. Though these changes may appear slowly, they are generally accompanied by other symptoms.
Children with anaemia get tired very easily. They feel dizzy, light-headed, have a fast-heartbeat and suffer from shortness of breath or rapid breathing and are unable to undertake strenuous or extremely physical activities such as running or playing outdoors. Even simple activities like climbing the stairs would leave them panting and tire them out completely.
The body has its own way of letting you know of things that are lacking in the form of cravings. That is why, if you notice your child exhibiting strange cravings and eating clay, cornstarch, ice or dirt, it might mean that the body is deficit in iron. Such behavior is referred to as pica.
Anaemia is associated with developmental delays and behavioral problems such as the inability to pay attention, decreased motor abilities and difficulty in social interaction-all of which lead to low energy levels and problems in learning.
Anemic children also experience a delay in healing wounds or tissues and fall sick more often. As the RBCs are unable to carry the required antibodies, children are more susceptible to infections, falling sick easily. Furthermore, their wounds heal late, thereby prolonging the injury.
Other symptoms of anemia in children include a sore or swollen tongue, irritability, constant headache, an enlarged spleen, jaundice and a tea-colored urine.
It is not necessary that a child suffering from anemia would display all of these symptoms. However, if one notices even one of these symptoms, it needs to be immediately brought to the attention of a pediatrician, so that he/she can get the required tests conducted to diagnose the child’s condition.
As anemia may be caused due to a number of reasons, the tests that a doctor might recommend, depending on the severity of the condition, would include a complete blood count (CBC), blood smear examination, iron tests, hemoglobin electrophoresis, bone marrow aspiration, and biopsy, and/or reticulocyte count.
Remember, anemia is a treatable condition and an early diagnosis can help reverse its consequences in an effective manner
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