Failure to thrive is a condition peculiar to children. It simply means that children cannot meet certain growth standards. It is not a disease condition but only a health status that tells that the child is undernourished and this is often because they do not receive enough calories or they are unable to metabolize enough calories.
A child whose weight is constantly below the standard range for age is an example of failure to thrive and this condition is typically diagnosed during a child’s early years.
There are national averages that a doctor would use to compare a child’s weight, height, age, and sex. Children with delayed growth fall usually do not reach their ideal weight.
Is your child at risk?
The following conditions increase the risk of developing failure to thrive:
- Down syndrome
- Cerebral palsy
- Milk allergy
- Celiac disease
- Acid reflux disease
- Children born prematurely with low birth weight
- Inadequate nutrition
- Poor feeding habits
- Mental exhaustion
Symptoms of failure to thrive
In many cases, a child who is affected has his or her weight below the third percentile on growth charts. Their growth rate is very much unsteady. The following symptoms are seen in children with failure to thrive:
- Failure to gain weight
- Delayed developmental milestones such as crawling, walking
- Learning disabilities
- Delayed puberty in teens
When to see a doctor
It is necessary to see a doctor as ensuring regular checkups can either lead to its prevention or early detection so that the right intervention can ensue. This includes tracking starting from pregnancy period until the child reaches adulthood. The child’s growth will be plotted on a chart regularly.
A pediatrician will give a good analysis of your child’s growth. Children with failure to thrive usually do not have a steady growth pattern and maybe smaller when compared to other children of the same age and sex.
A regular check is necessary to avoid the delays and disabilities associated with failure to thrive.
Diagnosis of failure to thrive
Some tests can be done to find the cause of failure to thrive and its implication on the child’s health. The tests include blood tests, X-rays, urine tests, developmental screening.
If family practices are suspected as the cause, the caregivers would be counseled.
Charts that show ideal height and weight ranges for age, gender are available and one can use this to monitor the child’s growth, usually for children between the ages of 2 to 20.
Treatment for failure to thrive
Treatment depends on the following:
- The cause of the condition
- Extent of symptoms
- Preferences of the caregivers
- Family environment
Some cases of failure to thrive are resolved as soon as the doctor treats the causative condition. Additionally, nutritional supplements may be prescribed depending on the diagnosis.
When failure to thrive is traced to family conditions, social service may need to intervene. In severe cases, hospital care may be needed such as the use of a feeding tube to provide extra nourishment.
Following the stabilization of your child’s growth, tracking of the physical and mental growth is essential and this is carried out by the following specialists:
- Speech therapists
- Occupational therapists
Early treatment in the absence of serious medical issues will lead to the normal growth of the child. When delayed growth is left untreated, it can lead to the following complications:
- Learning impairment
- Emotional problems
- Growth restriction
Consult a doctor if you notice that your child fails to gain weight, or appears to be losing weight, or does not seem to gain as much weight as you feel they should. Early consultation will help to allay anxiety and begin your child’s path to good health and nutrition.