Anemia in Babies

Anemia is the most common health problem among babies not getting enough nutrition and healthy environment for better growth and development. However, it might be lethal if not identified and treated properly in early stages and lead to some dangerous health problems or even death. Babies, kids an women are highly prone to the anemia.

Human body needs iron on daily basis to generate haemoglobin in the body in order to maintain the normal value of haemoglobin in the blood as they gets destroyed on completion of their life (120 days of life). Haemoglobin molecules are also called red blood cells which generally required in the body to carry oxygen to each and every body tissues and cells in order to maintain the normal cells functioning and youthfulness of body.

Generally, when babies do not get healthy diet rich in iron and folates, they may suffer anemia however iron deficiency in the body is not the only reason of anemia. There are many causes of anemia like continuous blood loss (in intestinal tract), poor iron absorption in body, genetic and so many.

What is Anemia

Anemia is the condition of lack of enough and healthy red blood cells or haemoglobin in the blood. Haemoglobin is the most important elements of the blood which gets bind with oxygen and carry all through the body tissue to perform normal functioning. When the level of haemoglobin becomes low below the normal value, our boy does not get enough oxygen and becomes tired.

Babies, kids and children are more susceptible to the anemia throughout their growing period as they grow continuously and need more iron to balance haemoglobin in the body.

Signs and Symptoms of Anemia in Babies

When anemia develops in the body, it shows some signs and symptoms which indicate that baby is suffering from anemia. However, we need to go to the doctor in order to know the real cause of anemia and get proper treatment accordingly. Anemia in its starting stage is called mild anemia and might not show any symptom so growing age babies need constant watch and care by the parents. Some of the common signs and symptoms of anemia in early stage are mentioned below:

  • Irritability
  • Shortness of breathe
  • Desire for unusual foods
  • Eat irregularly or eat less food
  • Feel tired soon or looks weak all the time
  • Develops sore tongue
  • Headache
  • Dizziness and lethargy

Signs and symptoms of babies suffering from severe anemia:

  • Blue-tinged eyes or whites of eyes get yellow
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tiredness
  • Brittle nails
  • Yellowish skin color, lips, nails
  • High level of irritability
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Fatigue, light-headedness and rapid heartbeat

Ignorance of such signs and symptoms in early stages may lead to the jaundice, enlarged spleen, permanent mental and physical impairment and other disorders.

Causes of Anemia in Babies

Some of the important causes of the anemia among babies are listed below:

  • Most common reason of anemia is the deficiency of iron which makes babies more susceptible to the lead poisoning and infections.
  • Newborn babies between ages 9 to 24 months are highly prone to the anemia.
  • Babies born premature or have low-birth-weight are more susceptible to it. Babies born after full term have more iron store in their body from mother uterus in last month which is enough for 4 to 6 months however premature babies iron store lasts only in two months.
  • Babies not getting proper breast milk and start getting cow milk before one year of age may suffer anemia as cow milk has low iron level as well as interferes with proper iron absorption in the body. It may cause irritation to the intestinal wall and then bleeding which lead to the continuous and slow blood loss through stool thus lead to anemia.
  • Babies depended on milk only after 4 months of age suffer lack of iron and may develop anemia.
  • Babies on poor diet which lacks iron.
  • Babies having problem in iron absorption very well.
  • Continuous and slow blood loss for a long period.
  • Babies with problems in red blood cells production or more destruction of red blood cells.
  • Some of the gastrointestinal problems like ulcers, haemorrhoids, stomach inflammation, cancer and etc.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (called NSAIDs) like aspirin or ibuprofen causes ulcer and gastritis and lead to anemia.
  • Sickle cell anemia is caused due to abnormal shaped red blood cells which break down rapidly.
  • Sometimes anemia is caused due to bone marrow and stem cell problems
  • Haemolytic anemia is caused due to the premature destruction of red blood cells.
  • Autoimmune haemolytic anemia is a genetic problem and caused when own immune system understands RBCs as foreign invaders and destroy them.
  • Thalassaemia is a severe form of anemia during which RBCs gets destroyed rapidly.
  • Aplastic anemia is caused when bone marrow do not produce enough red blood cells due to the viral infection, harmful radiations, exposure to some toxic chemicals, heavy medications like antibiotics, anti-seizure drugs, cancer treatment and etc.

Treatment of Anemia in Babies

Identification and proper treatment of the anemia in its early stage is very necessary as it may lead to some severe health disorders. It needs early check up and follow up by the doctor. Blood check up to know the haemoglobin value and iron supplements may be suggested by the doctor in less severe anemia however severe anemia needs close attention by both parents and doctor. Do not provide your baby iron supplements without the doctor suggestion as it may be poisonous.

Some of the tests can be suggested by the doctor to diagnose anemia in baby which are complete blood count, blood smear examination, iron tests, haemoglobin electrophoresis (to identify abnormality of haemoglobin in blood like sickle cell anemia, thalassaemia), bone marrow aspiration and biopsy (to identify normal red blood cells production in the bone marrow), reticulocyte count, family history, medications to know whether the cause is genetic.

Mode of treatment depends on the cause anemia thus sometimes baby need transfusion of blood, removal of spleen gland during spleen enlargement, treatment with medications to fight infection, bone marrow transplantation and so many.

Preventive Measures of Anemia in Babies

Some of the anemia causes can be prevented by the parents through proper care of their babies such as iron deficiency anemia, anemia due to slow blood loss, anemia due to premature birth, anemia due to poor diet, anemia due to low birth weight, anemia due to improper breast milk or excess cow milk and so many. Some of the preventive measures for the common causes of anemia are mentioned below:

  • Healthy diet and regular care of a mother all through the pregnancy in order to avoid premature or low birth weight baby delivery.
  • However, if baby is premature or low weight, it should be discussed properly with doctor and follow the advised given by him.
  • Provide your child breast milk at least one year with the proper weaning (food from 4 months of age) and avoid giving formula or cow milk.
  • Give your baby iron-fortified cereals and other iron-rich foods (lean meats, fish, poultry, iron-fortified pasta, rice, bread, green leafy vegetables, egg yolk, legumes, yellow vegetables, potato skins, tomatoes, molasses, raisins and so many).
  • Give your child plenty of fruits and vegetables having vitamin C (guava, kiwi, avocado, cantaloupe, mango, spinach, orange etc) as vitamin C helps in proper iron absorption in the body.
  • Limit the activity levels of your anaemic baby in order to avoid extra tiredness and let him to recover well through the medications and proper diet advised by the doctor.
  • Make aware other people related to your baby like teachers, friends, other caregivers and etc for extra care and support.
  • If baby has spleen enlargement problem, prohibit him from playing in order to avoid the rupture or haemorrhage from spleen.
  • Avoid some food and drinks which involve in inhibiting the iron absorption such as coffee or tea with a meal.
  • Iron supplements can be given to the anaemic baby according to the doctor’s advice.