Blood contains many red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets which assist blood clotting when we bleed. Oxygen is transported around our body from the lungs via the red blood cells and make the blood red in colour. The body needs a constant supply of oxygen to ensure that it grows, stays healthy and keeps us alive.
Sometime the amount of red blood cells we have declines and we have anaemia. This can make us feel tired, moody and weak. Our skin may become pale, our appetites poor and we develop headaches. Children who develop anaemia become sick more often and their muscles and brains can also become affected.
Iron in Childrens Diet
Iron deficiency is the most common reason for a child to develop anaemia. The mineral iron is essential in the production of red blood cells. Those children who do not get enough iron usually produce small, ineffective, pale red blood cells.
Children who are iron deficient tend not to learn as well, even if their deficiency does not result in anaemia. Their ability to remember decreases along with their performance at school, both in the classroom and on the playing field.
Iron deficiency occurs if a child does not eat enough iron containing food or if they lose high amounts of iron through bleeding, or their need for more red blood cells is increased. Iron deficiency anaemia is most common in infants and adolescents, girls more than boys.
Anaemia in most children often goes unnoticed because it is not severe enough to create noticeable symptoms. However, it can still slow down cognitive development. It can cause a decrease in attention span, a childs learning ability and their alertness. Those children who are iron deficient often eat dirt, ice or other items containing minerals.
Fatigue and irritability are common in those children who are low to moderately defiant in iron. You may notice that there is a bluish tint to the white parts of their eyes. They may also appear to be pale in their skin.
Those children with prolonged or severe anaemia often become irritable, their appetite is decrease, the growth slows down, their tongue become swollen and their nails become brittle, flat or spoon shaped. Those cases that are very serious can result in the child going into heart failure.
Prevention and Treatment
The best way to prevent and treat iron deficient anaemia is through their diet. Many foods are excellent sources of iron such as breast milk, infant cereals, liver, prune juice. Eggs, meat, chicken, fish, soybeans, turkey, peanut butter, dried beans and lentils are very good sources of iron. Tuna, apricots, oatmeal, raison, prunes, spinach and greens are all good sources of iron.
Nearly all cases of severe iron deficiency in younger children involve those children who drink too much cows milk. Anaemia can be made worse if a child drinks too much cows milk. This is due to iron being lost through the intestines making it difficult for their body to utilise the iron that is present, a child should not have more that 32 ounces of cows milk per day.