Condition in which the number (concentration) of red blood cells in the blood is abnormally low. Red blood cells contain the iron-rich compound, hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to the tissues. Anemia occurs commonly in toddlers who consume large amounts of cow’s milk and few iron-rich solid foods and in menstruating teens. It is more common in premature than full-term infants. Because preemies usually require frequent blood sampling for laboratory tests, nearly all have anemia to some extent. Preemies also have low red blood cell production. When decreased production is combined with frequent blood sampling for laboratory tests, anemia results.
If there are symptoms of anemia, treatment with a blood transfusion of red blood cells may be given. These red blood cells are taken from whole blood donated at a blood bank. This blood can be supplied by a personally selected donor or a random donor. A preemie who is anemic in the newborn period is not more likely to have anemia later in life.