Iron deficiency and anemia are the most common health problem in children around the world. According to the data produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2016, about 38.8 % of children suffer from anemia globally. About 30 % of children in the age group 0 -5 years and 45.2% to 48% of children between 4 to 14 years are iron deficient in our country.
Iron is an important mineral that helps to oxygenate blood by aiding in the production of a protein called hemoglobin in the red blood cell. It boosts immunity and assists in creating enzymes. The dearth of iron causes iron deficiency and anemia. The former can occur in the latter’s absence as well. Iron deficiency and anemia stagnant growth process and pose a major obstacle to a child’s holistic development.
Iron deficiency is common among children.
• Low iron diet: Growing children need iron but they might not get a sufficient amount from their food. Intakes of cow or goat milk by infants below 12 months make them prone to iron deficiency because it contains low iron and is hard to digest.
• Born with Anemia: Most babies suffer from mild anemia because the body utilizes the iron rapidly to ensure growth. Premature babies are at higher risk of contracting it because of a shorter span of red blood cells, poorly developed body, and low weight.
• Gastrointestinal problems: Abnormalities in the gastrointestinal tract, gastrointestinal bleeding, and infection may cause iron deficiency and anemia in kids as well.
• Bleeding: Loss of blood due to injury, after surgery and excessive menstrual flow may induce IRA in children.
It is not exactly hard to identify the symptoms of iron deficiency and anemia in children.
• The skin appears pale and greyish due to a lack of blood.
• Hands and feet remain cold.
• The child suffers from fatigue and gets easily tired.
• Suffers from short breathe and has an erratic heartbeat.
• Have addiction towards eating odd things as raw rice, ice cube, or dirt.
• Have irregular and erratic heartbeat.
• Complaints constantly about headaches and dizziness.
• Joint pains and swelling
• Slow body growth and cognitive development
• Constantly feeling tired
• Does not possess enough stamina
• Has weak defense against disease due to poor immunity system
• Impairs physical and mental health
• Affect cognitive ability negatively
• Reduces concentration level and may even induce behavioral problem
Children are usually diagnosed through screening and blood tests.
• Haemoglobin and hematocrit test: This is a screening test that measures the amount of hemoglobin and red blood cells in the blood. The normal hemoglobin level for a child is 13 g/dl. Any level lower than that must be treated immediately as it is a prerequisite for them to grow.
• Complete blood count: It not only check the hemoglobin and hematocrit levels but also counts the red and white blood cells, platelets, and reticulocytes to establish a definite result.
• Iron level or ferritin test: The total amount of iron in your child's body is tested through it. Children below 59 months should possess 11 g/dl while those belonging to 5 – 12 years should have 12 g/dl.
• Peripheral smear: In this process, a blood sample is taken for microscopic study to analyze if blood cells show unusual behavior.
Iron deficiency and anemia, both are caused due to deficiency of iron which reduces the proper level of hemoglobin production in the child. To cure it, iron must be supplemented to a child through the administration of drugs or diet.
Since prevention is better than cure, we shall first notify you how to prevent iron deficiency and anemia in the first place.
• Infants starting from the age of 6 months should be feed iron supplement along with mother’s milk.
• Toddlers should be feed iron and vitamin C rich baby food. The latter is an antioxidant and helps in the absorption of the former and also protects from infection.
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Medical treatment usually depends upon the age, symptoms, and severity of the condition. Medication can certainly improve the iron level in your child's body and assist in iron’s absorption and they are issued in the forms of drops and pills mostly.
• Iron salts as oral ferrous sulfate are mostly preferred by doctors to replenish iron levels in children as they have little side effects.
• To prevent pernicious anemia, vitamin class medicine as cyanocobalamin is also medicated. Though the latter is prescribed only after carefully diagnosing the severity of the case in the patient.
The most natural way of curing iron deficiency is through the intake of iron-rich food. Anemia is generally contracted by children because of their poor food habits. As a parent, it's your responsibility to see to it that your child gets a balanced diet.
• Pulses, legumes, and rice.
• Red Meat as pork, beef, and poultry as chicken and duck.
• Fruits as mulberries, olives, bananas, dried coconut, and raspberries.
• Vegetables as peas, asparagus, squash, and green beans.
• Soybeans, tofu, and nato.
• Pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds.
• Nuts as pistachios, almonds, cashew, and brazils.
You should also ensure that your child's food contains other nutrients more specifically vitamin C and B12 as well. Try to cultivate the habit of eating healthy in your child. Children with hemoglobin deficiency usually show pica tendency i.e, an addiction to consuming unusual food, or even powdery substance. Consult your doctor at once; since these tendencies are difficult to overcome cause much harm to a child’s health.
Ensure that your child takes medication regularly. Go for check up routinely and do screening test from time to time.
If you follow the advice of doctors diligently and look after your child’s need efficiently, then your child can be cured completely of anemia and iron deficiency.