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Don't Sell a Short Kid Short

Your child seems short next to other children of the same age. Should you worry?

The short answer is, maybe.

Some children grow more slowly than others. Height in the low normal range is still normal, doctors say. If you and your spouse are short, your child will likely join you.

Ask the doctor

Although being short is common, serious growth disorders are not. But don't ignore your concerns—talk with your child's doctor. If you follow guidelines for routine well-baby and well-child checkups, the doctor has been charting your child's height and weight. These are plotted on a standardized growth chart. The doctor can show you how your child compares with the average.

Spells of less rapid growth may follow growth spurts.

A small child who stops growing worries doctors more than a small child who's growing at a normal rate. Chronic illness, poor nutrition, and hormone problems can hamper growth. To pin down a problem, doctors may do some tests.

Growth problems

Some growth problems are genetic, and others may be because of hormonal disorders or digestive problems. Here are some common causes of growth problems:

  • Family history. Short parents often produce short children.

  • Growth delay.

  • Illnesses that affect the whole body.

  • Poor nutrition.

  • Hormone diseases, such as lack of thyroid hormones or insufficient growth hormone.

  • Chromosome abnormalities.

A doctor diagnoses a growth problem by noting a child's growth over time, but also may order blood tests, bone X-rays, or a test of the pituitary gland.

Prescribing hormones

Can growth hormones help? Yes, particularly if the hormones are given before the bones finish growing. If you're concerned about your child's height, talk with your doctor to see if growth hormones might be appropriate.

Short & OK, the Human Growth Foundation parents' guide, says it's natural for parents to have feelings of anger, guilt, disappointment, and frustration about a child's small size. But it won't help to show or act on those feelings. 

If your child worries about height, explain that kids grow at different rates—and that late bloomers tend to catch up.