It's an age-old question: How tall will my kid be? The traditional formula is to add Mom's and Dad's height plus five inches for a boy or minus five inches for a girl, then divide that by two. But environmental issues can come into play as well. Here, four surprising factors to consider.
We know that oral steroids can stunt growth, but a new study says that even inhaled steroids, like those used to treat asthma, can impact a child's adult height. “A small amount of the drug is potentially absorbed by the body, which can reduce adult height by one-half inch,” says Radhika Muzumdar, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York City.
Ritalin and other stimulants prescribed for ADHD have no effect on a child's adult height, but there can be some growth delays in the first year of treatment, due to a reduction in appetite. “Some kids go from gaining two inches per year to one,” says Paul Kaplowitz, M.D., chief of endocrinology at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Reserving the meds for school days only can help.
Yet another reason kids should get the recommended nine to ten hours of shut-eye every night: It's essential to growth. “The biggest secretion of growth hormone occurs while a child is asleep—almost two-thirds of what the body produces daily,” explains Dr. Kaplowitz. Too little sleep too often could ultimately lead to shortened adult height. The upshot: If you want to see a growth spurt, get your kid to bed early.
A balanced diet of fresh produce, dairy, and lean protein (plus regular exercise) helps kids maintain a healthy weight—which can help them reach their full genetically determined height. “Obesity can trigger early puberty, which is a child's peak time of growth,” says Dr. Muzumdar. “Once puberty is complete, kids will only get wider, but not taller.”