A two-year-old who was so pale that doctors feared he had blood cancer has finally been diagnosed: he drank too much cow’s milk.
Johnny Donovan, from Oregon, was born at the height of the 2020 pandemic.
He loved cow’s milk from the age of 1 and his mother, not knowing the dangers, let him keep drinking.
He drank about 30 to 40 ounces of milk a day, a far cry from the recommended 16 to 24 ounces.
When he was two years old, Johnny was tired, fussy,. He was also very pale, which his mother attributed to the typical overcast Pacific Northwest weather and their Irish heritage.
His mother didn’t make the connections until Johnny’s pediatrician expressed concern about his pale complexion and ordered a barrage of blood tests to determine the cause.
The extensive blood panel showed that Johnny’s hemoglobin level fluctuated between 4.5 and 5.6, well below the normal threshold for a two-year-old of 10.9 to 15. The doctor feared that a low hemoglobin level indicated a diagnosis of leukemia. But actually, Johnny had a serious iron deficiency.
Cow’s milk hinders the body’s ability to absorb iron, leading to exhaustion, pale skin, irritability and agitation, a rapid heartbeat, poor appetite, difficulty breathing and dizziness.
His pediatrician, after diagnosing him with an iron deficiency, told Ms. Donovan that she feared Johnny might have leukemia or another form of blood cancer.
Laura Donovan’s son, Johnny, was feared to develop a form of blood cancer after his pediatrician observed an abnormally low level of hemoglobin, an important protein for delivering oxygen to other cells in the body. Turns out Johnny had a form
Laura Donovan lived through the culture-changing Got Milk campaign and grew up believing that milk was the most important ingredient for health development. However, she didn’t realize that too much milk can be a bad thing.
In an essay published Monday, Ms Donovan said: ‘Sure, he was always in a sour mood, never seemed well rested and had almost constant breakdowns.
“I suspected he drank too much milk, which made him feel full, but I didn’t realize that excessive intake could do so much damage.”
His iron deficiency anemia (IDA) was so severe that he had developed a heart murmur, a whooshing sound heard through a stethoscope when blood flows abnormally across your heart valves.
Milk is praised as the source of vitamin D and calcium for children to develop strong bones.
The powerful 1993 Got Milk campaign promoted its nutritional benefits through advertisements featuring the Friends cast, Simpsons characters and the Williams sisters with distinctive milk moustaches.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE AN IRON DEFICIENCY?
Iron deficiency is caused by not enough iron in the blood to make hemoglobin.
Without hemoglobin, red blood cells cannot carry oxygen to other cells in the body.
Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is the most common nutritional disorder in the world, according to the World Health Organization.
Twenty percent of American children will be diagnosed with anemia at some point.
IDA causes increased heart rate, fatigue, dizziness, irritability and agitation, shortness of breath, pale skin color and slowed growth.
About two to three percent of toddlers have iron deficiency anemia.
But there is such a thing as milk overkill.
“Johnny constantly felt like crap, but couldn’t tell me. My husband and I regret assuming Johnny was moody when his heart was literally upset,” said Ms. Donovan.
Overconsumption of cow’s milk is a precursor to iron deficiency anemia. Anemia is a common problem in American children, although the type of anemia Johnny had was less common.
Only two to three percent of toddlers have IDA, but seven to nine percent of toddlers have an iron deficiency that could be caused by milk or another part of their diet.
If the body doesn’t get enough iron, it can’t make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells. Without hemoglobin, red blood cells cannot carry oxygen to other cells in the body.
To learn that too much milk can be a bad thing came as a surprise to Mrs. Donovan, who, like most Americans, believed that milk was the key to growing up big and strong.
She said: ‘Johnny’s haematologist said most parents don’t know that too much milk can be a problem. We see our children every day, but infrequent visitors, such as a doctor or relative, can notice worrying physical changes in our little ones.’
Johnny recovered from his heart murmur and anemia after a month and a half of treatment, which included iron transfusions and nutritional supplements.
His personality and character have changed for the better, Ms Donovan said. He smiles at everyone he meets, he feels more like eating and he wakes up and talks eagerly with his stuffed animals.
Mrs. Donovan said, “For the first time in his little life, I feel like I’m finally getting to know the real Johnny.”