Anemia in Babies: Causes, Manifestations and Treatment
Anemia in babies can occur for a number of reasons. Knowing the causes allows us to find the right course of treatment.
Anemia is a reduction in the number of red cells in the blood. In other words, it’s when hemoglobin levels – the red-colored protein that transports oxygen – are below normal. When anemia occurs in babies, it requires special considerations.
The causes of anemia in babies
According to information for the Argentine Pediatric Association, “There are various types of anemia, but the most common, especially in children, is called iron deficiency anemia or anemia due to a lack of iron. It is generally caused by a diet lacking in animal and vegetable proteins: Red and white meats, green leafy vegetables and legumes.”
According to the same source, there are times in life when people are more susceptible to anemia. These include the first year of life, adolescence, and pregnancy. In general, anemia is the result of the rapid degradation of red blood cells or major blood loss. The case may also be that a person’s bone marrow isn’t producing enough red erythrocytes (red blood cells).
At the same time, the decrease in red blood cells can be greater in very premature newborns. Anemia in cases of prematurity is greater in babies born with less than 32 weeks of gestation (time spent in the uterus). The same is true for premature babies who spend many days in the hospital.
Keep in mind
It’s important to point out that anemia in babies is a serious problem that can put a child’s development and life at risk. The same is true for undiagnosed iron deficiency. Both can affect a child’s brain activity and cognitive ability. This includes language development, motor development, and coordination.
The idea behind sharing this information isn’t to produce fear or paranoia. However, it’s important to talk to medical professionals in order to help prevent anemia in babies.
Treatment of anemia in babies
Once a doctor has determined that the cause of anemia is iron deficiency, treatment consists of administering this mineral. This can be in the form of drops, syrup or tablet, according to the patient. A pediatrician will determine the correct dose and the duration of treatment for each patient. In general, treatment lasts at least 3 months.
Parents should never give their children medication – in this case, iron – without consulting a pediatrician first. Therefore, iron supplements aren’t available without a written prescription. What’s more, you should follow up with your baby’s pediatrician regularly throughout treatment.
What is the best way to prevent anemia in babies?
Consulting a medical professional is essential when it comes to preventing anemia. At the same time, it’s important to keep the following in mind:
- Providing proper nourishment, which includes breastmilk, and iron in the form of drops every day. Doctors often also recommend vitamin A, D and C supplements.
- A diet that contains foods that are rich in iron is also recommended. This refers to well-cooked red meats, or vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and lentils. Depending on a child’s age, processing lentils may be necessary in order to avoid the danger of choking.
- Remember that consuming citrus fruits and other vitamin-C rich foods favor the absorbance of iron. Also, the use of iron-fortified milk – while not sufficient on their own – can help in the prevention of anemia in babies.
“Eating healthy foods is the most important way to prevent and treat iron deficiency,” according to Medlineplus.