G6PD is an enzyme or chemical present in our body that is needed to protect our oxygen carrying blood cells, called Red Blood Cells (RBCs.) The deficiency of G6PD is quite common in Pakistan; almost 5% of Pakistani population has some degree of G6PD deficiency. Most people with this deficiency never show any symptom through out their life. However, some children with G6PD deficiency can show signs, which can vary from mild to severe. The complications that can develop in children with G6PD deficiency include jaundice in newborns, and a condition called ‘hemolytic anemia’. What this means is that RBCs can get damaged after the child develops some infection or gets exposed to certain medications. This leads to decrease in RBCs, which is called anemia. The symptoms of hemolytic anemia due to G6PD deficiency include paleness, tiredness, rapid heartbeat, and tea colored urine that develop suddenly after an infection or after taking some medication. Anemia that develops due to G6PD deficiency is usually mild, but can be quite severe in some cases requiring blood transfusion. Once the trigger is removed, meaning the infection is cured or the offending medicine is discontinued, symptoms of G6PD deficiency also resolve, typically in a few weeks.
It is not necessary that every one should get their G6PD status checked, as most people with G6PD deficiency show no symptoms through out their lives. The G6PD status is usually checked if there are symptoms suggesting this deficiency, or if the doctor wants to prescribe a medicine, which could cause hemolytic anemia in people with G6PD deficiency. Those who have G6PD deficiency should avoid the medications listed below. Also, check with your doctor or a qualified pharmacist before taking any medication if that particular medicine is safe for people with G6PD deficiency. Remember that even if your child has G6PD deficiency, with the proper precautions, G6PD deficiency should not keep your child from living a healthy, active life.
Medicines to avoid in children with G6PD deficiency
• Sulphonamides (drugs with sulfa in their names)
• Co-trimoxazole (Bactrim, Septran)
• Nalidixic acid
• Moth Balls (napthalene)
• Methylene blue
• Fava beans - also called broad beans
• Large doses of vitamin C
Some anti-cancer drugs