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Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) is an immune system disease. It causes red blood cells to break open or break down.
The immune system's job is to attack germs that should not be in the body. In AIHA, the immune system attacks red blood cells and destroys them. This causes anemia. Anemia means your child’s red blood cell levels are low.
The cause of AIHA is not known. Some children may have a fever or infection a few days or weeks before developing AIHA. AIHA is not contagious. It does not pass from parents to their children.
Symptoms of AIHA include:
The first choice of treatment for AIHA is steroids. Your child will take these by mouth.
Some children may require a blood transfusion.
In some cases, steroids do not work well. Other treatments are needed. These treatments may include medicines given in a vein (IV), or in rare cases, surgery to remove the spleen.
Your child’s care team will discuss these treatments with you.
Steroids are a type of drugs used to relieve swelling and inflammation. Some steroid drugs may stop tumor growth.
Source: National Cancer Institute
Steroids have different effects on different children. Possible side effects include:
Your child’s doctor will gradually decrease the dose of the steroids until they can be stopped completely. The side effects go away when the steroids are stopped.
Your child’s doctor may prescribe other medicines to help your child with side effects.
Most children only have AIHA for a few months. A few children will have AIHA that comes and goes over months to years. There is no way to know how quickly your child will recover from AIHA.
Reach out to your child’s care team if your child:
Your child’s doctor might order a complete blood count test to determine next steps.
Reach out to your child’s care team if you have questions or concerns.
Reviewed: August 2022