Anemia is present when the hemoglobin levels are below
the normal ones for a certain age and sex.
A child is born with a high level of hemoglobin, in general
it is more than 15 g/dl, and it starts to decrease slowly during the child's
first months of age, reaching 9 g/dl by the time the child is 3 months
old. This levels then start to increase back gradually, to the point that
when the child is 1 year old it is normal that it has reached 12 g/dl
or more. After adolescence, a normal value for a boy is 13 g/dl and for
a girl it is approximately 1 g/dl lower.
Hemoglobin levels change with age, they change with sex
after adolescence, and also with the location of the residence. For example,
people that live near the coast will have lower levels and the higher
the altitude the higher the levels of hemoglobin. All of these points
have to be taken into consideration before the result of a hemoglobin
test can be interpreted.
The different factors that cause anemia vary with the
age of the child, but in general the most common cause in all ages (especially
in children 1 to 2 years old) is iron deficiency, or ferropenic anemia.
An adequate quantity of iron is essential in the child's
diet, especially during his first years of age and his adolescence.
To prevent ferropenic anemia, the American Academy of
Pediatrics clearly suggests that: every child who is being fed with canned
milk should receive extra iron as soon as he reaches four months of age,
after his six months if he is being breast fed, or as soon as he reaches
his first month if he is premature.
Most children drinking iron enriched canned milk receive
the necessary amount of if and this can be bought in any grocery store
and have a very good quality. On certain occasions it is necessary to
provide the child with extra iron through drops, and this will be left
to the pediatrician's criteria.
If the child is being breast fed the iron he receives
is absorbed better and the need for extra iron decreases, which adds to
all the other advantages of maternal milk. Even if this is the case, when
the child reaches his six months he must be given extra iron, which can
be done through an iron enriched cereal or iron drops.
An iron-enriched cereal is a very good alternative, but
one has to be sure that the appropriate quantity is given; this is usually
reached by feeding the child 6 to 8 small spoons of cereal a day.
A child who is a year old or younger should not drink
regular milk since it has been proven that it may cause intestinal bleeding
in young ones and therefore increase the iron deficiency in some children.
Several studies have shown that ferropenic anemia can
alter the child's growth in a permanent way, from here the importance
of preventing it.
To prevent ferropenic anemia in adolescence is easier
as their diet is very varied, they eat everything they find, and if the
doctor find it necessary, iron tablets may be given to them.