The WHO (World Health Organization) defines stunting as the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, and repeated infection. A growth delay occurs when your child isn’t growing at the normal rate for their age. 

A stunted child is a child whose height is lower than average for their age and at least two standard deviations below the 'Child Growth Standards Median' (standards for assessing the appropriate physical growth and motor milestones in children). 

In India, 35% of children younger than five years of age are stunted and an early diagnosis can help solve the problem. 

Stunting can cause irreversible physical and mental damage to children. Stunting can lead to diminished mental ability and learning capacity, poor school performance in childhood, increased risk of nutrition-related diseases, and obesity (excessive accumulation of body fat) in the future.   

In today’s article, we will look at 5 common causes of stunted growth in children.

1. Inadequate or poor diet and nutrition. The growth of your child significantly depends on his/her diet. If he/she isn’t taking the proper nutrients required for growth, no matter how much he/she eats, there will be a hindrance to growth. 

Your child needs a lot of essential vitamins and minerals for growth, development, and good health. They include vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K, minerals like calcium, iron, iodine, and zinc. Consult your doctor and follow a diet chart for your child in case your child is short in height when compared to other children of his/her age.

2. Genetics or a family history of stunted growth. Yes, it can be genetic as well. If parents or other close relatives are short in height, then your child can also suffer from the same. Delayed growth due to family history isn’t an indication of an underlying problem. Though there are very few chances of treating this cause, a little difference can be made with professional medical help.

3. Repeated infection or falling ill frequently. If your child’s immunity is weak and he/she falls ill frequently, it might be the reason that they aren’t growing. The energy derived from food is all vested in fighting diseases or infections. If it is so, you must consult a paediatrician to find a solution.

4. Growth hormone (GH) deficiency. Growth Hormone or Human Growth Hormone (HGH) plays a key role in the growth, body composition, cell repair, and metabolism (sum total of all chemical reactions that release energy for body functions) of your child. Under normal circumstances, GH promotes the growth of body tissues. If your child has a deficiency of this hormone, he/she won’t be able to sustain a healthy rate of growth.

5. Hypothyroidism. Babies or children with hypothyroidism have an underactive thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is responsible for releasing hormones that promote normal growth. An underactive thyroid can be the cause of delayed growth in your child. 

Now that you know the causes of stunted growth in children, be watchful for any signs and symptoms that point towards this. Early treatment may help your child reach a normal adult height; consult your doctor as soon as you notice any signs or symptoms of delayed growth.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.