Anaemia (low red blood cells) in children

Pale child in bed

What is anaemia? 

Anaemia is when the number of red blood cells is lower than it should be. The red blood cells normally carry oxygen around the body. Anaemia can happen if the bone marrow, which makes red blood cells, is affected by cancer or cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. If your child’s red blood cell count is low they may get symptoms.

What are the symptoms of anaemia?

  • Feeling tired (fatigued), weak and lacking in energy
  • Feeling dizzy and light-headed
  • A fast heartbeat or palpitations, especially when exercising
  • Breathlessness while doing simple tasks
  • Looking pale
  • Aching muscles or joints

What should I do if my child has symptoms?

Your child will have regular blood tests to check the level of red blood cells and other blood cells, but talk to your child’s doctor if they have any symptoms.  

How is it treated?

A blood transfusion can help your child to feel better if they are anaemic. 

Donated blood will be given into your child’s vein, usually through their central line. This takes several hours. Your child may have more than one transfusion during treatment.

During your child’s transfusion, the nurse will check their blood pressure, pulse and temperature. This is to make sure they don't have a reaction to the blood. Symptoms of a reaction include:

  • Shivering
  • Breathlessness
  • Itch or a rash
  • A rise in temperature

You should tell your nurse immediately if your child has any of these symptoms and they will stop the transfusion.

For more information

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1800 200 700

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