Experts Say: Dealing with G6PD Deficiency

Category: Newborns

Have a baby with G6PD deficiency? Read on to find out what to expect.

I just found out that my son is G6PD deficient. What does this mean exactly and what should he avoid when it comes to food?


I am also G6PD deficient. I lead a normal and challenging life as a doctor without any issues. I need to avoid certain medications, fava beans (broad beans in kacang puteh) and moth balls.


Red cells in our blood carry oxygen, a critical but highly reactive molecule, which may damage the red cells. Red cells have high levels of G6PD to protect them from oxygen damage. 3% of Singaporean males are G6PD deficient like your son and me. However, our red cells do not break down spontaneously without a trigger. The G6PD gene is located in the X-chromosome, so mothers are carriers and may pass on to their sons.


Singapore and much of the Southeast Asia region are previously heavily infested with malaria, a blood borne parasite. The malaria parasite needs 28 days to mature in a red cell before it bursts the cell and infects other red cells. G6PD deficient red cells are more likely to burst when stressed or infected with the malaria parasite. So malaria parasites cannot mature properly in G6PD deficient individuals, protecting them from severe malaria. That is why G6PD deficiency is so common in Singapore.


Your son should avoid certain types of anti-malaria drugs and sulphur-containing antibiotics like co-trimoxazole. Good to inform your child's doctor and pharmacist every time your son needs medications. At home, do not use moth balls. When he is older, teach him not to take fava beans.


The only risk period is when he is born. Children with G6PD deficiency have more severe jaundice soon after birth. If exposed to moth balls, their jaundice is worse and may damage the brain. Singapore routinely tests all newborns for G6PD deficiency, keep them for a longer period in the hospital where they are not exposed to moth balls and give phototherapy for moderate jaundice. Because of these measures, we do not see any patients with kernicterus, brain damage from severe jaundice.


Your son is otherwise well and has no restrictions other than those mentioned.



Associate Professor Allen Yeoh

Head & Senior Consultant

Division of Paediatric Haematology and Oncology

National University Hospital




Thanks for sharing!