Does your child eat mud or chalk?

Does he have unusual cravings like clay, limestone, salt or ice…… Well, he may be suffering from anaemia.

Anaemia is decreased in oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. It is caused due to low haemoglobin. The causes of anaemia are many but nutritional anaemia is the most common. Among the nutritional anaemia – iron deficiency anaemia is the most common cause, vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency also contribute. 7 out of 10 children below 5 years are anaemic. A recent study shows that children below 10 years have the highest incidence of anaemia.

Iron deficiency anaemia is more common in less than 5 years of age and highest during the first two years of life. Improper weaning foods and excess of milk intake along with a rapid rate of growth are the primary reasons for anaemia. In older children, junk food, worm infestations and rapid pubertal growth are the common causes of anaemia. Girls, especially after menarche, have been found to have more anaemia due to blood loss. The common symptoms of anaemia are easy tiredness, paleness or yellowness of skin, breathlessness on playing or walking too long or climbing as compared to normal children, irritability, poor growth, unusual cravings like dirt, chalk, ice, licking walls etc. There is also increased susceptibility to common infections. Neurological affections include short attention span, easy distractibility and low IQ. The most important part to worry is, neurological changes may not fully reverse even on correction of anaemia, hence it is extremely important that we take special attention to the diet of our children during infancy and pubertal growth spurts.

Prevention is better than cure.

One can prevent anaemia by eating nutritious iron-rich diet. Dietary sources rich in iron are jaggery, green leafy vegetables like methi, palak, amaranth, beetroot, radish. Among cereals and pulses bajra, ragi, soybean have higher amounts of iron. Dry fruits like dates, raisins and pista also contain a good amount of iron. Fruits like pomegranate and apple too are good sources of iron. Seafood and meat are rich sources. Some of the other food items mentioned above should be consumed on daily basis.

Regular deworming and treatment with haematinics may be required in severe cases. Regular charting of weight and height help to pick up growth faltering early. Special attention should be given to the diet of pubertal girls as they are prone to iron deficiency and may require supplementation. We can prevent anaemia by simply giving our children the right kind of nutritious food and give them a healthy start to life.

Dr. Lalita Kanojiya
Dr. Lalita Kanojiya

Senior Consultant - Paediatric
Department of Paediatrics