Folate-Deficiency Anemia (Child)

Folate (folic acid) is a B vitamin that your child’s body uses to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.

Folate-deficiency anemia usually develops slowly. At first, children with anemia don’t have symptoms. If untreated and severe, they become tired and fussy. They may be dizzy. They may have pale lips and skin. And they may not be interested in eating and lose weight. Severe anemia can cause problems with movement and behavior. Untreated anemia can slow a child’s growth rate.

Folate-deficiency anemia is most often caused by a diet low in folic acid in people who are unable to eat a varied diet. It's rare in people who eat a healthy, varied diet. A common cause of folate deficiency occurs in people focused on only certain types of food such as a diet with only goat's milk. It may also be caused by a digestive problem, liver disease, or certain medicines. Folate deficiency is treated by having the child eat more foods high in folate. Your child may also need to take folate supplements. With enough folate, this type of anemia is often quickly reversed. In severe cases, your child may need a blood transfusion.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for your child at home:

  • The healthcare provider may prescribe a folic acid or B vitamin supplement. Follow the provider’s instructions for giving this medicine to your child.

  • Watch your child’s energy level. Allow your child to rest as needed.

  • Make sure that your child eats a balanced diet that has plenty of foods with folic acid. These foods include fortified breakfast cereals, breads, and other grains. Folate is also found in leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts, and some fruits.

  • Talk with your child’s healthcare provider if your child refuses to eat a balanced diet. Ask to see a nutritionist for information and guidance.

  • Tell your child’s caregivers and school officials about their condition.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to get medical advice

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

  • Your child refuses to eat or has trouble eating

  • You child has a stomachache, diarrhea, or bloating

  • Symptoms continue or get worse

  • Skin and lips are still pale

  • Low energy level

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