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G6PD deficiency

  • G6PD deficiency is due to a problem with an enzyme (chemical) found in the red blood cells of the blood. It is very common in some racial groups, and scientists think there are about 400 million people in the world with G6PD deficiency.

    G6PD deficiency does not go away and is a lifelong condition. It is an inherited disease (passed on from previous generations). You cannot catch it by being in contact with someone else.

    It is more common in males and is usually passed on to male children from their mother even though she has had no symptoms herself. Your doctor can explain the way in which it is inherited and the tests that can be done to check for the condition.

    Most people with G6PD deficiency have a completely normal life as long as they avoid certain foods and drugs. Some people with the condition sometimes get anaemia. (Anaemia can make children look pale and have less energy.) This may happen after taking one of the drugs or foods listed below, or during an illness such as an infection. Some babies with G6PD deficiency may have jaundice for longer than usual in the first month of life. (Jaundice makes the skin look yellow from the breakdown of red blood cells.)

    Signs and symptoms

    If your child has G6PD deficiency, you should get a check with your doctor if ever any of the following symptoms develop:

    • Pale skin (pallor)
    • Persistent / severe tiredness
    • Dark urine
    • Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)

    Care at home

    You should always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication.

    In particular you should avoid the foods and drugs on this list.

    Antibiotics

    • Sulphonamides (check with your doctor)
    • Co-trimoxazole (Bactrim, Septrin)
    • Dapsone 
    • Chloramphenicol 
    • Nitrofurantoin 
    • Nalidixic acid

    Antimalarials

    • (Always discuss with your doctor)
    • Chloroquine 
    • Hydroxychloroquine 
    • Primaquine 
    • Quinine
    • Mepacrine 

    Chemicals

    • Moth Balls (napthalene)
    • Methylene blue

    Foods

    • Fava beans - also called broad beans
      (If not sure, identify the bean before using. The hospital can help).

    Other drugs

    • Sulphasalazine 
    • Methyldopa
    • Large doses of vitamin C
    • Hydralazine 
    • Procainamide 
    • Quinidine 
    • Some anti-cancer drugs

    Some children with G6PD must not take Asprin. Check with your specialist or paediatrician first. 

    Always check the labels of any medications you buy without a prescription.

    Be careful about using herbal, naturopathic or other alternative / complementary therapies.

    Key points to remember

    • G6PD is an inherited condition and cannot be 'spread' from one person to another.
    • Most people with G6PD deficiency have a completely normal life as long as they avoid certain foods and drugs.
    • Some people with the condition sometimes get anaemia or jaundice especially after taking medicine of food they should avoid or after an infection.  

    For more information

    • The RCH Drug Information Centre - (03) 9345 5208
    • Give copies of this sheet to other carers (i.e. school, kindergarten, babysitters)
    • Take this sheet with you when you visit your family doctor

    Individual information

     

     

    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital General Medicine, Haematology and Pharmacy. Thank you to the parents who helped with this fact sheet. First published: 2003. Reviewed: May 2011

Disclaimer
This is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easily understood. The Royal Children's Hospital accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in the handouts.
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