Childhood malnutrition

What is child malnutrition?

Childhood malnutrition is the result of insufficient food intake and repeated occurrence of infectious diseases. The first year of a child’s life is essential for his or her growth, both for physical and psychological development, which is why nutrition is so important at this stage of life, although it remains so at all stages. There are 3 types of malnutrition:

  • Severe or severe acute malnutrition: this is the most common form and urgent medical attention is necessary. It can be observed by weight, as it is well below the standard for the child’s height and arm circumference.
  • Moderate acute malnutrition: This can be seen by the arm circumference, which is below the standard. Immediate treatment is necessary so that the disease does not progress further.
  • Chronic malnutrition: Stunting is present. This is measured by comparing the child’s height with a recommended standard for the child’s age. This disease is based on a lack of necessary nutrients over a prolonged period of time and leads to physical and mental retardation during the child’s development.

The prognosis depends on the cause of malnutrition.

Prognosis of the disease

The prognosis depends on the cause of the malnutrition. The vast majority of nutritional deficiencies can be corrected. However, if the cause is a medical condition, the condition must be treated to counteract the nutritional deficiency.

Symptoms of childhood malnutrition

Some of the symptoms that determine this disease are:

  • Weight loss.
  • Extreme pallor.
  • Sinking or bulging of the abdomen.
  • Protruding cheekbones.
  • Loss of memory.
  • Coldness in hands and feet.
  • Slow growth.
  • Dry skin.
  • Hair loss changing its color.
  • Sensation of fullness and heaviness after eating lightly.
  • Irregular menstruation or disappearance of menstruation.
  • Physical exhaustion.
  • Loss of muscular mass.
  • Alterations in blood coagulation and immune system.
  • Cold and bluish fingers and toes due to circulatory disorders.
  • Fragile nails.
  • Extreme thinness and anemia.
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Medical tests for childhood malnutrition

Diagnosing childhood malnutrition requires routine blood tests, calculation of body mass index, and measurement of arm circumference. Routine blood tests are performed to evaluate for anemia and other deficiencies such as minerals and vitamins.

What are the causes of childhood malnutrition?

The causes can be divided into three major groups:

  • Immediate causes: these are the causes that are most closely related to inadequate nutrition. In other words, there is insufficient food consumption (in quality and quantity) and can lead to infectious diseases such as diarrhea, which worsens the situation.
  • Underlying causes: They are related to inadequate access to food, limited health care and ingestion of unsafe water.

Can it be prevented?

In the newborn it is essential to consume milk, if it is breast milk the better, so that it is nourished with the food that will allow it to develop normally both physically and mentally. It is also advisable to visit the pediatrician regularly to prevent any disease that may develop, especially during the first months.

Treatments for infant malnutrition

The treatment of infant malnutrition consists of replacing the missing nutrients and treating the symptoms that the patient may have. The intake of proteins, carbohydrates and mineral salts is important, as well as vitamins and water. In addition, the body mass index should be monitored to see if it is improving.

What specialist treats it?

The specialist who treats it is the pediatrician or a nutritionist specialized in infant nutrition.