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Blood is a complex mixture of various components, with red blood cells being one of the most important. Red blood cells contain a substance called hemoglobin, which is rich in iron and gives blood its characteristic red color. The main function of red blood cells is to transport oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body and to bring carbon dioxide back to the lungs. Anemia occurs when the number of red blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin in the blood is reduced. The normal range of hemoglobin varies with age. It is important to monitor and maintain healthy hemoglobin levels in children to ensure proper oxygen delivery to the body’s tissues and organs.

What are the harmful effects of anemia to my child?

Anemia is a condition that can often go unnoticed, especially when it is mild. However, even mild anemia can have harmful effects on the developing body and brain of a child. The body may adjust to a low level of hemoglobin, but the growing brain and body continue to suffer. Children with anemia may have lower scores in memory, reading, speaking, and math skills, which can have permanent effects despite treatment with iron. Anemia can also affect mental processes involved in gaining knowledge and comprehension, such as thinking, knowing, remembering, judging, and problem-solving. These harmful effects occur gradually and may not be readily obvious. In addition to these effects on mental development, anemia can cause weakness, poor appetite, reduced capacity for physical activities, and low productivity. It can also lower immunity and increase the risk of infections and brain strokes.

As a parent, how will I know that my child has anemia?

Anemia is a prevalent issue among children in India, affecting a significant portion of the population. According to the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Indian government from 2016-2018, 41% of preschoolers aged 1-4 years, 24% of school-age children aged 5-9 years, and 28% of adolescents aged 10-19 years have anemia.


If parents suspect that their child may have anemia, they should seek medical attention from their pediatrician. Consult Dr. Sushma, Pediatrician, as early detection and treatment of anemia can prevent long-term harm to a child’s health and development.

It can be challenging for parents to identify anemia in their children, as the symptoms may not be apparent until the anemia is severe, with hemoglobin levels below 7-8 g/dL. Mild anemia may only be detected through a blood test. Severe anemia can cause the child to appear pale or light-colored, experience weakness, fatigue easily, have a poor appetite, and reduced capacity for playing, exercising, and reading. Younger children may engage in pica, such as eating soil, chalk, or raw rice, and may have a preference for milk over solid food.

Why is my child getting anemia?

The most prevalent cause of anemia in children is a lack of iron in their diet, which is often due to an unbalanced diet. Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells in the body. Overconsumption of animal milk can also lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Breastfed babies, on the other hand, receive sufficient iron from their mother’s milk. Additionally, a diet that is low in folic acid (folate) or vitamin B12 can also contribute to anemia, which is frequently seen in adolescents due to poor diet choices, excessive junk food intake, and food fads. Anemia can also be caused by the presence of worms in the stomach. Less common causes of anemia include suboptimal food absorption due to conditions like celiac disease (wheat allergy), bleeding due to any reason, thalassemia, other blood disorders, etc.

What can I do to prevent the occurrence of anemia in my child?

Anemia is most likely to occur during the period when a baby transitions from breastmilk to solid food, typically between 6 months and 2 years of age. Breastmilk is an excellent source of nutrition for infants, but after 6 months of age, breastmilk alone is insufficient to meet a child’s nutritional needs. In India, it is common for parents to provide an excess of milk or milk products and inadequate solid food to their babies after 6 months of age, which can lead to anemia.

The most common cause of anemia in children is a lack of iron in their diet, which is necessary for the production of red blood cells. Excessive consumption of animal milk is a common cause of iron-deficiency anemia, which is why children aged 1-5 years should not be given more than 500 mL of milk or equivalent milk products every day. Consuming excessive milk reduces a child’s appetite for nutrient-rich solid food, which is crucial for their overall growth and development.

Parents should introduce a home-based, culture-appropriate, balanced semi-solid diet from 6 months of age. This diet should include khichdi, porridge, wheat payasam, mashed dal, kheer, banana, etc. Chapatti softened in milk, green leafy vegetables added to dal or khichdi, idli, and upma are also good options. If culturally acceptable, non-vegetarian foods such as soft-boiled egg and minced meat may be introduced at the age of 6 months. By 9 months of age, a child should be eating all the food that is cooked for the family.