Anemia is a blood condition where the body has a lower-than-normal hemoglobin level (an essential protein that carries oxygen to your tissues and organs). It affects nearly 24.8 percent of the population, with the highest prevalence in preschool-age children at 47.4 percent.

Anemia is often linked to heart disease because the heart has to work harder to pump more blood and oxygen throughout the body. If anemia is unrecognized and left untreated, it can cause serious damage to the organs.

The symptoms of anemia you should look out for include:

  • Pale appearance
  • Cranky or irritable mood
  • Feeling tired or weak all the time
  • Problems concentrating in class
  • Frequent headaches or dizziness
  • Feeling cold all the time, especially in the hands and feet

There are many different types of anemia, including iron-deficiency, sickle cell, thalassemia, megaloblastic and hemolytic anemia. However, they all are due to the same underlying problem: insufficient red blood cells or lack of hemoglobin.

The causes of anemia can include:

  • Insufficient iron in the blood
  • An inherited blood condition
  • Lack of B-12 and folate
  • Another illness (like cancer or kidney disease)
  • Rapid blood loss

If you think your child may be anemic, it’s important to see your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Anemia can be diagnosed with several simple blood tests. Treatment usually starts with dietary changes, vitamin supplements or medications that increase red blood cell production.

To prevent your children from getting anemia, you can:

  • Make sure they eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Avoid giving infants cow’s milk until they are at least 12 months old. If exposed to it too early, cow’s milk can cause blood loss in your child’s stool and can also decrease the amount of iron absorbed in the gut.
  • Encourage your family to eat foods high in vitamin C to increase the absorption of iron.
  • Feed your children foods high in iron. Many grains and cereals have added iron. Other good sources of iron include red meat, egg yolks, potatoes, tomatoes and beans.