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A Guide To Short Stature In Children

Poor growth, more popularly known as short stature is a condition that is common in children. Use the information below as your guide so you can better understand short stature in children.

What is short stature?

Short stature is a term used by doctors for a child who is notably below the average height for a person of the same age and sex. A child is considered to have short stature if his height is more than two SD’s (standard deviation) below the average height of other children of the same age.

Causes of Short Stature In Children

The causes of short stature in children fall into one of three major categories – familial short stature, chronic disease and constitutional delay of growth and development.

•    Familial Short Stature – Familial short stature is hereditary. Meaning, one or both parents of the toddler is short, but the toddler will show normal growth rate, bone development is normal and he should reach the height of one or both parents.
•    Chronic Disease – Short stature in children can also be caused by a number of medical conditions such as malnutrition (the most common cause of short stature), Down syndrome, congenital heart disease, celiac disease, asthma, diabetes and bone disorders such as rickets (a disorder caused by a lack of calcium, vitamin D or phosphate).
•    Constitutional Growth Delay – Characterized by delayed bone age, normal growth rate and a predicted adult height appropriate to the family pattern. Toddlers with constitutional growth delay are called “late bloomers”.

Signs and Symptoms of Short Stature In Children

A toddler who is short does not mean he has a problem. If a toddler’s short stature is inherited or if he is a late bloomer, there is no need to worry. The toddler will shoot up to a more average height once he reaches puberty stage. However, poor growth can also be an indicator of a medical condition. Watch out for the following red flags:

•    Loss of appetite
•    Weight loss or weight gain (more than 5 pounds in a month)
•    Growth suddenly stops or slows
•    Your toddler is notably shorter than most children his age
•    Your toddler has health issues

Diagnosing The Problem

Your health care provider will perform a physical assessment. Your toddler’s weight, height and arm and leg lengths will be measured. Your toddler’s doctor will also ask you a couple of questions about your family history (e.g. height of parents, grandparents, siblings and relatives) and your child’s history (e.g. what the toddler’s birth was like, your toddler’s diet and if he has any other symptoms).

The doctor may also order a complete blood count and other laboratory examinations such as IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor), growth hormone stimulation test (to check for gland and hormone problems) and a bone x-ray of your toddler’s left wrist or hand to see whether or not the bones have matured as they should for your toddler’s age.

Treatment For Short Stature In Children

If your toddler’s short stature is caused by a health condition, he will be treated for that condition. If your toddler lacks growth hormones in his body, the health care expert may recommend giving your toddler synthetic growth hormones to stimulate growth. This is usually given using growth hormone injections.
However, if your toddler is short but his growth hormone levels are normal, he will not need growth hormone injections.

Keep in mind that short stature can have an effect on a toddler’s self-esteem. Thus, it is very important that you give your toddler plenty of emotional support. This can be done by focusing on your toddler’s talents and strengths, playing with your toddler more often and listening to him talk. Be mindful of the teasing his classmates and friends may make. Talk with other family members, friends and teachers about how to give support to your precious one.

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May 2015
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