Many parents have concerns about their child's height. Read the answers to these frequently asked questions and learn what growth to expect from your child.
"Short" is a descriptive term for a person whose height is considered significantly below the normal range of measurements for that age, gender, racial group, or family. Short stature is also a statistical term, generally referring to people who are shorter than 97 percent of their age- and sex-matched peers. Thus, in any population, nearly 3 percent of people will meet this statistical definition, most with no discernible medical abnormality.
Height perception is influenced by a wide variety of factors, such as culture, gender, family background, and psychological state. Although parents sometimes worry if their child is the "right" size in comparison to her classmates, the more important question is whether your child is continuing to grow at a normal rate. If your child's doctor suspects a problem -- such as a growth rate that had been proceeding normally but has recently flattened -- he or she may track your child's measurements carefully over several months to determine whether the growth pattern suggests a possible health problem or is just a variation of normal.
Remember that children whose parents are relatively short will probably find themselves in the lower portions of the growth charts throughout their lives. Many other children who are short for their age will be normal in height as adults and have no disorder other than some delay in the timing of their growth.
Normal growth is aided by good nutrition, enough sleep, and regular physical exercise. A malnourished child may be pushed off her "natural" growth rate. Parents should be aware, however, that a child's growth pattern is largely genetically programmed. Pushing a child with "short genes" to eat extra food or greater than recommended amounts of vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients will not increase the child's height.
Most short-statured children fall into one of these two categories:
If the doctor finds your child is growing too slowly or not at all, further testing may be appropriate and treatment may be indicated. Though responsible for only a small percentage of impaired growth, there are a variety of medical conditions that can stunt growth and result in short stature.
Sources: The Endocrine Society and the Hormone Foundation; American Medical Association
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All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.