Childhood anaemia is the most common reason for haematological consultation in Pediatrics, with iron deficiency being the most frequent cause. More than half of children with anaemia are asymptomatic.
Childhood anaemia is a disease in which the body’s red blood cells (RBCs) fall below the average level for the child’s age. As for the causes of childhood anaemia, lack of iron is the most common. Among the symptoms of anaemia in children, you can find pale skin or extreme tiredness, irritability or weakness. Although these symptoms can worry many families, anaemia is usually easy to treat, especially if caught early.
Lack of iron or iron deficiency is one of the most frequent nutritional deficiencies in the world and is the most common cause of anaemia. Red blood cells contain less than an average amount of haemoglobin, the protein responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body and cells, and iron deposits are essential for its manufacture.
Thus, in some cases, a child may become anaemic even though the nutritional intake is adequate if, for example:
You lose red blood cells from repeated haemorrhages or bleeding.
- For instance, due to a long-term slow loss of bowel movements, persistent nose bleeds or heavy periods.
Destroys large numbers of red blood cells
- This anaemia occurs when the child has an underlying disease or has inherited a red blood cell disorder. Here we could mention the thalassemic syndromes, a heterogeneous group of hereditary hypochromic anaemias of variable severity.
It does not produce enough red blood cells.
- It occurs due to dietary deficits if you do not consume enough iron and other nutrients or intestinal malabsorption problems.
Symptoms of childhood anaemia
Among the most common signs of anaemia would be irritability, pale skin, jaundice, mild weakness, fatigue, pale cheeks and lips, the inside of the eyelids and the nail having a paler pink colour than usual, increased heart rate or delayed development or learning.
In the most severe cases:
- Restless legs syndrome
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart rate
- Dizziness or fainting
- Swelling or inflammation of the hands and feet
It can be prevented fundamentally through a balanced diet since this will offer the least amount of iron necessary. Fundamentally, this component is found in vegetables, molluscs, fish such as tuna or salmon, some meats (especially red) and legumes (peas or lentils).
Types of childhood anaemias
Anaemias can be classified into two broad categories:
- Disorders resulting from increased destruction (haemolysis) or loss of red blood cells (bleeding).
- Disorders resulting from an inability to produce red blood cells adequately (for example, bone marrow depression); here, we could include sideroblastic anaemia.
Likewise, they can be included in chronic or acute anaemias:
The one that is installed slowly and progressively. It is the form of presentation of various diseases that induce insufficiency in the production of red blood cells by the bone marrow or limitation in synthesising a hereditary or acquired nature of haemoglobin. This group may include bone marrow failure syndromes, deficiency anaemias (iron deficiency, the most frequent among children), or anaemias secondary to systemic diseases (nephropathies, chronic infections, neoplasms, etc.).
Red blood cell and haemoglobin values fall sharply below normal levels. It occurs in two well-defined situations: bleeding and an increase in the destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis).
Iron deficiency anaemia, the most common
Iron deficiency is the most common form of childhood anaemia, leaving all the others far behind it from a quantitative point of view. In addition, iron deficiency anaemia is the most common haematological disease in children, with an estimated prevalence of 10-20%. It represents the most frequent reason for haematological consultation in pediatric care.
In addition, anaemia is a common complication in many chronic diseases that occur with inflammation (juvenile idiopathic arthritis, disseminated lupus erythematosus, ulcerative colitis) or infection (chronic pyogenic conditions: bronchiectasis, osteomyelitis), as well as in cases of malignant tumours or advanced kidney disease.
It should not be forgotten that more than half of the patients with anaemia in childhood are asymptomatic. For this reason, the early diagnosis of childhood anaemia and its treatment is crucial to avoid or alleviate the long-term consequences on the main organs and systems of the body.