By Dr Gayatri Sabinkar
Published on 14/10/2022
The 3rd week of every September i.e, 18th-24th, 2022, is earmarked as International Children's Growth Awareness Week.
Is your child growing normally? Did you know that abnormal growth is an early indicator of an underlying medical condition? There are many medical conditions that affect children's physical growth. Children have a limited amount of time to grow, but they must live with the consequences for the rest of their lives. If growth is neglected, it can have a significant impact on overall health and wellness throughout one's life.
It is critical to understand that a child's growth pattern, whether too fast or too slow, is a major index of his or her overall health, and atypical growth can be an early indicator of an underlying medical condition that may also affect brain development, cardiovascular health, lungs, bones, immune system, hearing, and eyesight.
Together, we can raise awareness about the critical role that height plays in children's health and why tracking growth could help the one in every 4,000 to 10,000 children worldwide who suffer from growth disorders reach their full growth potential. It should be ensured that every child grows a minimum of 5cm every year, and hence every growing child should have his/her height and weight documented every year, as per guidelines. Regardless of their parents’ heights, if children are consistently missing key growth milestones, they may have a growth disorder. Unfortunately, the endocrinologist to district ratio in India is less than 2, and the awareness about approaching them for height disorders is limited. Height does not merely depend on adequate food intake but also depends on maternal and paternal height, proper food composition, hormonal factors, and a number of other health conditions.
Moreover, a tall child of tall parents might develop a health disorder and stop growing, but might still appear taller than his classmates. If we fail to miss this trend of absent height gain in him and only realize when he appears shorter than his peers, we might miss out on the time available to regain and compensate for the height loss before the bone ends fuse, and he might finally end up shorter than expected.
The World Health Organization (WHO), in fact, lays down guidelines that growth velocity charts should be available for every country (with varying ethnic and environmental factors) and renewed every decade, but such charts are unavailable for most countries. The author has generated growth velocity charts for the first time for South Indian children and has taken part in growth awareness activities in various schools of Nellore, but this needs universal large-scale implementation as height is not merely a physical characteristic but an indicator of the overall well-being of the child.
Similarly, being atrociously taller than peers might also not be as rosy as it seems and could be indicative of an underlying hormonal disorder, which, if left uncorrected, could be life-threatening in the long run.
Kindly approach your nearest endocrinologist for other concerns regarding your child's growth, as they say, "A stitch in time saves nine!"