Anemia is a condition where a child doesn't have enough healthy red blood cells to deliver oxygen to their body.
Red blood cells help transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, and move carbon dioxide back into the lungs to be exhaled and removed from the body.
Anemia occurs when there aren’t enough red blood cells to complete these tasks. A child will develop anemia if the body doesn’t make enough blood cells, destroys red blood cells or, if excessive bleeding causes a child to lose more blood cells than they make.
There are many conditions that can cause anemia in children of any age, including:
- Aplastic anemia – a rare, life-threating disease that can be caused by autoimmune diseases, infections, some medicines or toxic exposure.
- Bone marrow disease — several diseases, like leukemia, myeloma and other cancers, can limit or destroy the ability to make red blood cells.
- Chronic diseases – conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, Crohn's disease or inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis can restrict red blood cells.
- Hemolytic anemias – a condition where red blood cells are destroyed and removed before their lifecycle is over.
- Iron or vitamin deficiency – this is the most common type of anemia. Without the proper levels of iron, B-12 and folate, your body cannot produce red blood cells. This can be a result of excess blood loss, cancer, malnutrition, improper diet, pregnancy or ulcers.
- Sickle cell – a type of hemolytic anemia, which causes the body to produce defective crescent (sickle) shaped red blood cells that break down.
The following symptoms can indicate anemia:
- Bruising easily
- Color loss in eyelids and nail beds
- Fatigue (tired)
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes)
- Pale or gray skin coloring
Severe anemia symptoms
- Rapid heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen hands and feet