Kids Health Info

G6PD deficiency

  • G6PD deficiency is due to a problem with an enzyme (chemical) found in the red blood cells. 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 (i.e. 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 will get anaemia. Anaemia can make children look pale and have less energy. This may happen after taking one of the drugs or eating the 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 because of the breakdown of red blood cells.

    Signs and symptoms

    If your child has G6PD deficiency, they should be checked by a doctor whenever any of the following symptoms develop:

    • pale skin (pallor)
    • persistent and/or severe tiredness
    • dark coloured urine (wee)
    • jaundice (yellow skin or eyes).

    Care at home

    You should always check with your doctor or pharmacist before giving any medication to your child.

    In particular your child should avoid the foods, drugs and chemicals on this list:


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


    Always discuss with your doctor before you take any antimalarial medication.

    • Chloroquine 
    • Hydroxychloroquine 
    • Primaquine 
    • Quinine
    • Mepacrine 


    • Moth balls (napthalene)
    • Methylene blue


    • Fava beans - also called broad beans
      (If you are 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 will get anaemia or jaundice, especially after taking medicine or eating food they should avoid, or after an infection.  
    • Give copies of this factsheet to other people who care for your child (e.g. school, kindergarten, créche, babysitters) and take it with you when you visit your family doctor.

    For more information

    • The RCH Drug Information Centre - (03) 9345 5208

    Individual information


    Your doctor:____________________________________________________


    Phone number:_________________________________________________


    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

This information 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 easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.