Family Health Guide

You are here

Childhood Obesity: Symptoms

Many parents don’t recognize that their child has a problem until they are already overweight. In one survey, 49 percent of parents believed their kids were of average size, but those same kids were actually classified as overweight. They might also be unsure of how to broach this sensitive topic, so they procrastinate when it comes to talking about it. It might take the intervention of a pediatrician for parents to face the problem and get help.

At your child’s annual visit to the pediatrician, the doctor will track his/her growth via height and weight; The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends that children age two and up have their body mass index (BMI) calculated and plotted on a growth chart, to see how he/she compares with other children of the same sex and age. For example, if you are told your child’s BMI is in the 80th percentile, that means that, compared with other children of the same sex and age, 80 percent have a lower BMI. These numbers provide the pediatrician with a snapshot of your child’s growth trajectory and can alert him or her to potential weight problems. A BMI of 85th to under 95th percentile for age and sex indicate your child may have a weight problem. 95th percentile and up indicates obesity.

By the time a child is already overweight or obese, he/she may be suffering from weight-related conditions like type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and knee or hip pain. High cholesterol, abnormal liver enzymes, asthma, skin conditions and headache are other possible symptoms.  Research also shows that overweight children have lower self-esteem than their thinner peers, and may face teasing and discrimination at school. Ideally, a weight problem can be caught before the condition progresses to this point, which is why early detection is essential.