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Vitamin K Deficiency In Childhood

Description

Vitamin K is produced by the body, and helps the blood to clot. Thus, it is essential to prevent serious bleeding. Vitamin K prevents a now rare, but often fatal, bleeding disorder called Haemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn (HDN). HDN can cause bleeding into the brain, which may result in brain damage. HDN can be early (0-24 hours), classic (2-5 days) or late (1-12weeks).
Babies don't have enough of their own vitamin K until they're a few months old. Babies do not get enough of the vitamin from their mothers during pregnancy and don't get much from breast milk either and thus need extra vitamin K until they build up their own supplies.

 Click here for the major features of HDN.

Symptoms and Signs

The warning signs of HDN include spontaneous bruising or excessive bruising after minor injury, nose bleeds, oozing or bleeding from the umbilicus, dark vomit, dark stools or blood in the nappy, or excessive bleeding from skin lesions. Other less specific warning signs include pallor, irritability and jaundice. These signs should be treated seriously even if vitamin K prophylaxis has been given. Parents should be advised to seek immediate medical advice if their infant has any of these signs.
Late HDN commonly presents with intracranial haemorrhage, which can be fatal or result in permanent neurological damage. Cases of HDN have been reported in infants up to the age of 4 months.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Nowadays routine administration of vitamin K at birth, usually a single 1 mg intramuscular injection, prevents virtually all cases of classic and late HDN.
The American Academy of Paediatrics advises giving newborns an injection of vitamin K intramuscularly within 1 hour of birth to prevent HDN. Giving vitamin K by mouth is not recommended as it may not be completely swallowed or absorbed and more than one dose is required to protect against late HDN.

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. Commonwealth of Australia, National Health and Medical Research Council http://www7.health.gov.au/nhmrc/


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  http://www.hon.ch/Dossier/MotherChild/child_nutrition/vitaminK.html Last modified: Oct 20 2004