Can Children get Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency is a condition that can affect children, though it is more common in middle-aged adults. Pernicious anemia can create a host of debilitating symptoms that may be overlooked by your doctor- especially in the case of pediatric vitamin B12 deficiency.
Your body needs vitamin B12 (cobalamin) for healthy red blood cells, DNA synthesis, and neurological functioning. A depletion of vitamin B12 in children may result in a breakdown of these basic biological functions.
Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms
When children get vitamin B12 deficiency, symptoms arise that affect multiple parts of the body, including the gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, musculoskeletal network, and various other functions.
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach cramps
- Difficulty swallowing
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- “Brain fog”
- Difficulty walking
- Poor hand-eye coordination
- Difficulty controlling arms or legs
- Frequently dropping items
- Painful tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
- Sore muscles
- Muscle spasms
- Vision problems
Causes of vitamin B12 deficiency in children
It’s unusual for children to develop vitamin B12 deficiency, as most of the risk factors apply for adults and senior citizens. One of the most common causes of pernicious anemia in children results from vegan dieting, as meat products are the only viable source of cobalamin in existence.
There are no vegan sources of vitamin B12, so vegan dieters are advised to supplement with synthetic vitamin B12 in order to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency.
Possible risk factors for childhood vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Vegan diet
- Mother kept vegan diet during pregnancy and nursing
- Family history for pernicious anemia
- Mother had pernicious anemia or vitamin B12 deficiency during pregnancy
- Autoimmune disorders
- Poor absorption of vitamin B12
- Gastrointestinal disorders, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac
Treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency
A doctor can confirm if your child is suffering from symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency by issuing a simple blood test. However, because many blood screenings for vitamin B12 levels are often inaccurate, it’s important to pay closer attention to the symptoms and react accordingly.
Usually, doctors prescribe several rounds of vitamin B12 injections for treatment, particularly is vitamin B12 absorption is an issue. This is acceptable for preventing severe nerve damage or death from pernicious anemia.
However, many patients find that the recommended dose of vitamin B12 shots is not enough for a complete reversal of symptoms, and continue to feel fatigued and sore long after they’ve been diagnosed as “B12 normal.”
In such instances, it can be helpful to supplement with extra cobalamin in the form of non-dietary vitamin B12, which is available over the counter and does not require oral digestion.
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