Dear Dr Nina: My 8-year-old is always tired. How do you spot anaemia in children?
Q My eight-year-old is saying that she is always tired and I think it is because she won’t eat much meat. What are the symptoms of anaemia in children?
A Toddlers and young children who are fussy eaters may be prone to anaemia.
A diet low in vitamin B12, folic acid or iron may lead to reduced red blood cell production, increasing the risk of anaemia. Other vitamins, such as vitamin c, riboflavin and copper, are also important in red blood cell production. Conditions such as coeliac disease, and other bowel conditions may reduce the absorption of nutrients and alter red cell production levels.
Consuming calcium-rich foods with iron can also reduce the absorption of iron from the gut, so those who consume large amounts of milk, especially if it is ingested with meals, may also be at risk.
If anaemia is mild, there may be no symptoms at all. Feeling tired or lacking in energy is the most common symptoms of anaemia. Other symptoms include dizziness, ringing or whooshing in the ears, headaches, cold hands and feet, pale skin, a fast heartbeat, or chest pain. Children may show reduced concentration and apathy or lethargy unusual in their age.
Anaemia can be diagnosed by a simple blood test and the cause should be identified and treated. If iron levels are low, taking a supplement can help.
Eating a healthy diet and leading a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent anaemia.
If you are concerned as regards your child’s health, a visit to your GP is warranted.