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Some children need little or no treatment for thalassemia because it causes only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Your child may simply need to see the doctor for regular check-ups or if symptoms ever develop or get worse.

Some children with thalassemia may need a
blood transfusion from time to time, such as when they have a major viral illness. The purpose of a transfusion for a child with thalassemia is to give the child healthy red blood cells and hemoglobin. This helps their bodies get the oxygen they need.

Children with severe thalessemia (also called Cooley's anemia or thalassemia major) must have regular blood transfusions throughout their life to survive. This is the most severe form of thalassemia.

Transfused blood contains iron. Patients with severe thalessemia cannot use this iron to make their own blood cells, so after many transfusions the iron builds up in some of their organs. This is called iron overload.

The iron build-up can harm the heart, liver and glands that make hormones. So the doctor will check your child's iron level. If it starts to get too high, your child will need a treatment called chelation therapy to remove the excess iron. This involves giving medicine that binds to iron so it can leave the body in urine.

Your child's doctor may also suggest giving your child folic acid supplements. Folic acid helps the body create healthy red blood cells. Ask your child's doctor whether to use a supplement and, if so, how much to give each day.

Who Treats This at Seattle Children's?

Should your child see a doctor?

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Summer 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

  • Understanding the Power and Influence of Role Models
  • Legal Marijuana Means Greater Poisoning Risks for Children
  • Why Choose Pediatric Emergency Care?

Download Summer 2014 (PDF)