Red blood cells are the most plentiful cells in the blood. Red blood cells give blood its red color and are responsible for delivering oxygen to the tissues in the body. When you breathe, oxygen enters blood in the lungs. This blood then goes throughout the body, delivering needed oxygen. If your child does not have enough red blood cells, it is called "anemia." Symptoms of anemia may include:

  • looking pale
  • feeling tired
  • being dizzy
  • having a headache
  • a racing heart
  • shortness of breath
  • Infants with anemia may nap more often or fall asleep during feeding.

If your child’s red blood cell count is low:

  • Encourage rest
  • Play games with your child that do not require much physical activity 
  • Avoid activities that might leave him/her breathless or with an increased heart rate

Call the clinic if your child:

  • appears pale
  • is overly sleepy
  • has shortness of breath (such as after climbing stairs)

During cancer treatment, if your child has any of these symptoms, a complete blood count (CBC) helps doctors know if the problem is anemia. Red blood cells are measured in the CBC by the hematocrit and hemoglobin measurements.

  • Hematocrit is the amount of red blood cells in the blood.
  • Hemoglobin is the amount of red blood cells carrying oxygen.

Your doctor will look at both the hematocrit and hemoglobin measurements to determine if your child has anemia. If your child’s hemoglobin or hematocrit is low, your child may need a red blood cell transfusion. For more information about blood transfusions see the fact sheet below:

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