Your body demands iron to make haemoglobin in order to perform. Haemoglobin could be the molecule in red blood cells that have oxygen about the body. When the ranges of haemoglobin drop below the typical average and less oxygen is sent throughout the body, an individual experiences a situation named anaemia.
Some people with anemia don’t have any symptoms for months. When symptoms do appear, common ones include lethargy, weakness, dizzy spells and feeling faint, and cold extremities (usually the hands and the feet).
As the condition becomes more severe, shortness of breath, palpitations, headaches, a sore mouth and gums, and brittle nails appear. Affected people start looking pale and they eventually find their surroundings to look peaky.
Anyone can suffer from anemia. People who frequently get anemia however are usually vegetarians, women with mature physique, men and women aged 75 and above, and adolescents. The usual cause for anemia is a diet lacking in the proper amount of iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid.
Anemia is uncommon in newborn babies but may result from hemorrhage (including from the placenta), transfusion between twins in the womb and breakdown of blood in rhesus disease, and other blood group incompatibilities between mother and fetus.
After the newborn period, the most common cause of anemia in children is iron deficiency caused by an inadequate or improper diet. Iron deficiency is more common in premature babies, deprived populations, or developing countries. It is also important to look out for this illness in teenage girls who have started their periods. Anemia from blood loss is less common but may occur from repeated blood sampling in sick babies, or from parasitic infections such as hookworm.
Children with anemia, like adults, may appear pale, tired and short of breath. Another sign of iron deficiency in children is pica – the inappropriate eating of non-food material such as soil or chalk. Iron deficiency may also affect brain development and lead to behavioral and intellectual problems which are reversible with proper treatment.
Other symptoms may reflect the causes of anemia and include, for example, jaundice, weight loss or sickle cell crises.
Treatment depends on the cause of anemia, so each case should be diagnosed individually. Reversible causes should be treated as soon as possible. If the condition is due to a lack of iron, eating iron-rich food may be all that’s needed.
Foods that are rich in essential nutrients include:
Iron – red meat, liver, green vegetables, eggs, dried apricots, sardines, spinach, fortified breakfast cereals, wholegrain bread
Vitamin B12 – meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, fortified breakfast cereals
Folic acid – wheat germ, broccoli, green cabbage, pulses, nuts, yeast extract
It’s also important to have plenty of vitamin C because it helps the body to absorb iron from the diet. Sometimes it’s advisable to take iron supplements to speed up the process, but always get medical advice first for children as they may be overdosed. Children should never take adult iron tablets unless specified by their doctor and some people need folic acid supplements more than iron for anemia prevention.
For older people or those with pernicious anemia, vitamin B12 tablets are not effective because the body cannot absorb the vitamin through the gut. Usually in this case, it must be given as a regular injection into the muscles once every few months.
When the anemia becomes more severe and supplements are not enough, a blood transfusion becomes the only solution to counteract the illness.