Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"How do you care for an underweight child?"
My niece is 4 yrs old and very underweight for her age. What should I know about taking care of her? Her mom says she's just growth delayed but I want to do everything I can for her.
In order to answer the question properly, it is important to define what you mean by underweight. The best way to do this would be to compare the height and weight of your niece to her peers by using a growth chart. These charts have been compiled to compare the normal growth of normal children, and give benchmarks that are helpful, especially when followed over time. It would also be important to know if your niece had been growing well and suddenly became underweight, or if this has been a constant issue since her birth. Finally, it is important to understand what your role is in the care of your niece, and if you have specific concerns above and beyond what you are stating in your question. The best way to address all of these concerns is with an annual physical exam by a pediatrician or family practice doctor. These are recommended for all children (and are valuable for adults, too), and help to pick up problems such as changes in growth that are best evaluated with time. Of course, if there is a more immediate concern that is putting your niece's health at risk, she should be seen by a physician immediately. Any specific recommendations for caring for her can be addressed at that time, but healthy food habits (many food choices, high fruit and vegetable intake, little junk food, etc) can always be recommended.
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