We understand how worrisome it can be if your child is experiencing symptoms of anemia. Right now, you probably have a lot of questions. What caused the anemia? What do we do next?
We’ve tried to provide some answers to those questions in the following pages, and our expert pediatric subspecialists can explain your child’s condition fully when you meet with us.
What is anemia?
Anemia is a common blood disorder that occurs when there are fewer red blood cells than normal.
Anemia is often a symptom of a disease rather than a disease itself. Anemia usually develops due to:
- excessive blood loss
- deficient production of red blood cells
- excessive red blood cell destruction
- both decreased production and excessive destruction of red blood cells
Types of anemia
What are the different types of anemia?
- iron deficiency anemia
- megaloblastic (pernicious) anemi
- hemolytic anemia
- sickle cell anemia
- aplastic anemia/bone marrow failure
- Fanconi anemia
- Diamond-Blackfan anemia
What are the symptoms of anemia?
Each child may experience symptoms differently, but the following are the most common symptoms for anemia:
- pale skin, lips, hands or under the eyelids
- increased heart rate (tachycardia)
- breathlessness, or difficulty catching a breath (dyspnea)
- lack of energy, or tiring easily (fatigue)
- dizziness, or vertigo especially upon standing
- irregular menstruation cycles
- absent or delayed menstruation (amenorrhea)
- sore or swollen tongue (glossitis)
- jaundice, or yellowing of skin, eyes, and mouth
- enlarged spleen or liver (splenomegaly, hepatomegaly)
- slow or delayed growth and development
- impaired wound and tissue healing
Symptoms may resemble those of other blood disorders or medical problems. Because anemia is often a symptom associated with another disease, it is important for your child's physician to be aware of any symptoms she may be experiencing. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
What causes anemia?
As a parent, you undoubtedly want to know what may have caused your child’s anemia. Generally, anemia may be caused by several problems, including:
- nutritional deficiencies (iron, folic acid or vitamin B12)
- inherited diseases (Fanconi anemia, thalassemia, sickle cell disease)
- certain cancerous conditions
- certain medications
Q: Will my child be OK?
A: The long-term outlook for children with anemia depends on the specific cause of the anemia. In some cases, anemia is the result of a temporary condition that can be treated with supplements or shots. In other cases, it may be a symptom of a more chronic or serious problem requiring ongoing medical care. Your child’s physician can answer questions about the specific cause of your child’s anemia and how it will be treated.
Q: Where will my child be treated?
A: Children treated through Children’s Hospital Boston’s Anemia and Red Blood Cell Disorders Program will receive care in our hematology clinic on the sixth floor of the Fegan building. For many appointments and certain procedures, your child can also receive care at one of our satellite offices.
Q: What services are available to help my child and my family cope?
A: We offer a variety of services to help you, your child and your family. Read more about our support services.
Questions to ask your doctor
After your child is diagnosed with anemia, you may feel overwhelmed with information. It can be easy to lose track of the questions that occur to you.
Lots of parents find it helpful to jot down questions as they arise – that way, when you talk to your child’s doctors, you can be sure that all of your concerns are addressed. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What specific type of anemia does my child have?
- What symptoms might my child experience?
- How will my child’s symptoms be managed?
- Will my child need transfusions?
- What are the potential complications? How can I help my child avoid them and recognize them if they do occur?
- How often will my child need to come in for follow-up care?
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