Let’s talk about ANEMIA
Anemia is a deficiency in red blood cells, also called “low hemoglobin”. Symptoms of anemia include fatigue, pale skin color, fast heart rate, or may have no symptoms at all. It is common practice at either the 12 month or 15 month visit for your pediatrician to check your child for anemia. This is usually done in the office with a finger poke, like a diabetic testing their sugar.
Normal range for hemoglobin:
- Age 6-24 months is 11-13
- Age 2-6 years is 11.5-13.5
- Age 6-12 years is 12-15
- Age 12-18 years:
- Males is 13-15.5
- Females is 11.5-15
There can be multiple causes of anemia. Drinking too much whole milk (over 24oz per day) is a very common reason for toddlers to be anemic. This is due to the fact that the calcium in dairy products inhibits the absorption of iron in the gut.
Another common cause of anemia in children is insufficient intake of iron containing foods. High iron containing foods include spinach and other leafy green vegetables, red meat, lentils, beans, chickpeas, soybeans (edamame), peas, quinoa, tofu, broccoli, canned tuna, and dark chocolate.
Here’s a meatball recipe I suggest for a big blast of iron: 1 lb lean ground beef, 1 lb cooked lentils, 10oz bag spinach- cooked, 2 eggs, ½ cup bread crumbs (even tear up 2 slices of sandwich bread instead), ¼ cup ketchup, seasonings of your choice (I use Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, salt & pepper). Mix all ingredients together with your hands, form into 2 inch meatballs, and bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Don’t forget about your old trusty iron skillet! Lug that heavy pan out and start using it often to pan sauté your meat and vegetables to add iron into other foods you are already cooking.
There are other more rare causes of anemia including inherited red blood cell defects such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia and serious infections.
If your child has moderate to severe anemia, they may require a prescription iron supplement, but I’ll warn you, it is one of the nastiest tasting medications I have ever tried. (In pediatric residency, we had the opportunity to “taste test” about 20 different medications commonly prescribed, so we understand exactly what the children’s medications taste like.) In lieu of this, our hematology clinic offers iron infusions if deemed necessary. Warning, even taking a daily over the counter multivitamin will not prevent or treat anemia in a picky eater, as most vitamins do not contain iron.
Talk with your pediatrician if you are concerned your child may be anemic, especially out of the 12-15 month age range when they are usually checked.
I’m a board-certified pediatrician, passionate about ensuring the well-being of patients ranging from newborn through late teens.
I attended medical school at the University of Oklahoma (Boomer!), and completed my pediatric residency in Houston.
Since the completion of residency, I’ve worked in outpatient clinics and enjoy not only caring for my young patients, but becoming a part of every family by building long-lasting, trusting relationships. While I treat common and not-so-common childhood infections and diseases, I especially have a passion for asthma and allergies, nutrition, and ADHD along with other learning disorders.
I’m married and we have a rescue dog named Jack. When not at work, I enjoy attending cultural events and traveling. To make an appointment with Dr. Bailey, click here or call 682-303-1000.