Unspecified Anemia (Child)

Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the other tissues and organs in your child’s body. Anemia is a condition in which your child has too few red blood cells. Blood with too few red blood cells can’t carry enough oxygen to the rest of the body. Anemia is the most common blood disorder in children. Usually, it's not a disease itself. Instead, it’s a symptom of another problem.

Some children with anemia may not have symptoms. Other children will be irritable and have a poor appetite. They will gain weight more slowly than normal. Other symptoms include:

  • Fast heart rate

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Lack of energy or tiredness

  • Pale or yellow skin color

There are many types of anemia and many causes. Causes include bleeding, nutritional problems, infections, exposure to a medicine or toxin, or an inherited disorder.

Anemia is diagnosed with a blood test. During treatment, your child may need some follow-up blood tests. Treatment for anemia depends on its cause. Severe anemia is treated with oxygen and IV (intravenous) transfusions of red blood cells. Your child will need to stay in the hospital during this treatment. Iron supplements may be used for less severe anemia.

Home care

Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia in children. Depending on the cause of your child's anemia, the provider may prescribe an iron supplement or certain iron-enriched foods. Follow the provider's instructions for giving your child this medicine or these foods.

General care:

  • Allow time for frequent and quiet eating. If your child is not eating well, talk with their provider or caregiver about techniques that will help.

  • For severe anemia, limit activity. A child who has anemia may get tired more easily.

  • Let all caregivers and school officials know about your child’s condition.

  • Watch your child for signs of anemia that is worsening listed below.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider, or as advised. If lab tests were done, they will be reviewed by the provider or a specialist. You will be told of any new findings that may affect your child’s care.

When to get medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Paleness or weakness that gets worse

  • Trouble breathing

  • Continued poor appetite

  • Bleeding that won’t stop

  • Fast heart rate

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness and fainting

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