How do I Tell if My Child is Underweight

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-26-2005
How do I Tell if My Child is Underweight
Fri, 11-28-2008 - 11:55am

How do I know if my child is underweight?

Weighing your child may not give you enough information to determine if he or she is underweight. If you are concerned that your child may be underweight, consult your child’s doctor. A physician or other health professional can compare your child’s weight and height to growth charts developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). A child is underweight if his or her BMI-for-age-and-gender is less than the 5th percentile. BMI, or body mass index, is defined as weight divided by height times height (kg/m2).

What are some concerns for underweight children?

There are several possible reasons for being underweight: not consuming enough food, an underlying illness, stress, obsessive exercise, lack of interest in eating, or a sudden growth spurt. An under-nourished child is more likely to become sick. The child may feel weak or tired, and have trouble focusing and concentrating. He or she may have stunted growth or a delay in the onset of puberty. It has been estimated that 12 million children live in food-insecure households, meaning that they have limited availability of nutritious and safe foods.

If a child has no interest in eating, it could be a sign of anxiety, a food allergy causing discomfort after meals, high amounts of caffine, an excessive fear of being overweight, or even an eating disorder. In any case, it is extremely important to work with your child’s doctor or health professional to help determine what is going on and how to address it.

What can I do to help my child?

If your doctor recommends weight gain, the main goal will be to get your child to take in more calories. Continue to promote physical activity as part of a normal routine. If your child has been playing actively, have him or her rest for at least 15 minutes before meal times.