​​​Anaemia is a disease caused by insufficient presence of healthy red blood cells. The most common form of anaemia is the one caused by iron deficiency. Iron helps to make red blood cells and red blood cells are transporters of oxygen in the body. 

Children usually receive iron from food. A diet with insufficient iron is one of the leading causes of anaemia, especially during puberty and adolescence. 

Toddlers, in particular need iron from their mother’s milk. If a child drinks cows’ milk exclusively, and doesn’t have a balanced diet, the child may become anaemic. 

In some cases the body fails to absorb iron, whereas in others, prolonged bleeding may cause anaemia.​

At a lower level, anaemia may not cause severe symptoms. Common symptoms may include:

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Tiredness

  • Weakness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Unusual food cravings

  • Loss of appetite

As the anaemia develops, the symptoms may become more severe, including:

  • Paleness of skin

  • Paleness of eyes

  • Fingernails and toe nails becoming easily breakable​

​If your child is experiencing any of the above symptoms or if you are concerned about an iron deficiency, it is advisable to seek immediate medical attention. You can call and book an appointment with one of the medical specialists working with the Family Health or Children’s Hospital Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital.
​Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Diagnosis of anaemia in children can be done via blood tests. These may include:

  • Haemoglobin: This blood test measures the percentage of blood made of red blood cells. A low count is indicative of anaemia.

  • Ferritin blood test: This is used to measure the level of ferritin inside your body, which is a protein that stores iron. A lower ferritin level, even within the normal range, indicates a higher likelihood of anaemia.

  • Serum iron test: This is a test to measure the amount of iron in your child’s blood.  It is usually conducted in the morning as that is when iron levels are highest. If your child is on certain antibiotics, he or she may have to consult with your doctor at the Children’s Hospital Services at The Aga Khan University Hospital to stop taking the medicines before the test is conducted.

  • Total iron binding capacity: This is a test to measure the amount of a protein called transferrin, which carries iron in the blood. Your child will not be allowed to eat or drink for 8 hours before the test.

It is very important to keep a balanced diet for your child, with plenty of foods that include iron. These include: 

  • Beef/goat meat

  • Fish

  • Spinach

  • Raisins

  • Oatmeal

  • Eggs

  • Beans

  • Lentils

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list. You may consult with your doctor at the Children’s Hospital Services at the Aga Khan University Hospital for detailed information.

In some cases, a healthy diet may not be sufficient enough to treat for anaemia. In such cases, the recommended treatment for your child is supplements. It is not recommended to give your child supplements or vitamins without consulting with your doctor at the Children’s Hospital Services at The Aga Khan University Hospital. Your doctor will prescribe the right kind of supplement for your child. Too much iron can cause poisoning.

It is very important to understand that anaemia which is due to iron deficiency can be treated with iron supplements. A blood transfusion is usually not required to treat this kind of anaemia. Only your physician can recommend when a blood transfusion is needed to treat this anaemia. There are many side effects of getting a blood transfusion. Always consult with your physician prior to a blood transfusion.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage​.



The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider. ​