What Is Anemia? Anemia is when the number of red blood cells in the body gets too low. Red blood cells carry hemoglobin (HEE-muh-glow-bin), a protein that carries oxygen throughout the body. Without enough of them, oxygen doesn't get to the body's organs. Without enough oxygen, the organs can't work normally. There are many different kinds of anemia, so treatments vary. What Are the Different Kinds of Anemia? The types of anemia are based on what causes them. They include: Anemias from when red blood cells get broken down too fast, called hemolytic anemias. They include: autoimmune hemolytic anemia: when the body's immune system destroys its own red blood cells inherited hemolytic anemias: these include sickle cell disease, thalassemia, G6PD deficiency, and hereditary spherocytosis Anemia from bleeding. This can happen due to bleeding from an injury, heavy menstrual periods, the gastrointestinal tract, or another medical problem. Anemia from red blood cells being made too slowly, such as: aplastic anemia: when the body stops making red blood cells from an infection, illness, or other cause iron-deficiency anemia: when someone doesn't have enough iron in their diet anemia B12 deficiency: when someone doesn't get enough B12 in the diet or the body can't absorb the B12 What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Anemia? Some children with anemia don't have any symptoms. A child who does have symptoms might: look pale seem moody be very tired feel dizzy or lightheaded have a fast heartbeat have jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), an enlarged spleen, and dark tea-colored pee (in hemolytic anemias) Young children with iron-deficiency anemia also might have developmental delays and behavioral problems. How Is Anemia Diagnosed? Doctors usually can diagnose anemia by: asking questions about symptoms asking about diet asking if any family members have anemia doing a physical exam doing blood tests to: look at the red blood cells with a microscope to check their size and shape check the amount of hemoglobin and iron in the blood check how fast new RBCs are being made check for any inherited anemias check other cells made in the bone marrow (such as white blood cells) Sometimes doctors do tests on the bone marrow. The bone marrow is the spongy part inside the bone where blood cells are made. For this test, the doctor puts a needle into the bone to take a small bone marrow sample. The sample is sent to the lab for special tests. How Is Anemia Treated? Treatment for anemia depends on the cause. Kids and teens with anemia might need: medicines changes in their diet treatment of another underlying disease to see doctors (hematologists) who specialize in anemia and other blood problems How Can Parents Help? Most kinds of anemia are treatable. It may take a while for symptoms to go away, so your child should take it easy while recovering. Help your child get the best care by: going to all doctor's appointments following the doctor's recommendations Back to Articles Related Articles Iron-Deficiency Anemia Iron helps the body carry oxygen in the blood and plays a key role in brain and muscle function. Too little iron can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Read More Sickle Cell Disease Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that makes red blood cells change shape and cause health problems. Find out how to help your child. Read More G6PD Deficiency G6PD deficiency an inherited condition in which someone doesn't have enough of the enzyme G6PD, which protects red blood cells. Read More Alpha Thalassemia Alpha thalassemia is a blood disorder in which the body has a problem producing alpha globin, a component of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body. Read More Beta Thalassemia Beta thalassemia is a blood disorder in which the body has a problem producing beta globin, a component of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body. Read More Iron Iron is an important ingredient needed to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying part of every red blood cell. Read More Blood Test: Ferritin (Iron) Doctors may order a ferritin test when they suspect kids have too little or too much iron in their bodies. Read More Blood Test: Reticulocyte Count This test measures the rate at which reticulocytes (immature red blood cells) are made in the bone marrow and enter the bloodstream. A reticulocyte count can provide information about a child's anemia. Read More Blood Test: Hemoglobin Electrophoresis A hemoglobin electrophoresis can help diagnose diseases involving abnormal hemoglobin production, and often is performed as part of newborn screening tests. Read More Blood Here are the basics about the life-sustaining fluid called blood. Read More Becoming a Vegetarian People choose vegetarianism for a variety of reasons. This article describes different types of vegetarianism and provides advice on ways for vegetarians to get all the nutrients they need. Read More Blood Find out about the mysterious, life-sustaining fluid called blood. Read More Blood Transfusions About 5 million people a year get blood transfusions in the United States. This article explains why people need them and who donates the blood used. Read More Sickle Cell Disease Sickle cell disease is a disease of the blood. Red blood cells are shaped like sickles, and can get stuck, especially inside smaller blood vessels. Read More Anemia Anemia is common in teens because they undergo rapid growth spurts, when the body needs more nutrients like iron. Learn about anemia and how it's treated. Read More Blood Test: Complete Blood Count The complete blood count (CBC) is the most common blood test. It analyzes red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Read More What's Anemia? What does it mean when a kid has anemia? Learn about anemia, why kids get it, and how it's treated in our article for kids. Read More Sickle Cell Disease Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that makes red blood cells change shape and cause health problems. Find out more in this article for teens. Read More Word! Red Blood Cells Red blood cells have the important job of carrying oxygen. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.