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Spotting Early Signs of Malnutrition in Children

With sunken eyes and a distant stare too serious for her age Benita sat tilting sideways with a drool  as she watched other children running and screaming with delight as they played in the setting sun.

Looking at her, you could easily pass her off for a nine months old baby, but she only had a few weeks to being three years old. Sadly, at this age, the only thing Benita could do was crawl, cry and say the words,”beat you “ to both children and adults.

Born to a teenage mother, the once chubby, light skinned baby now features prominent cheekbones with constant marks of dried tears, scanty short hair, rough and dark scaly skin and a few sores around her lips. She also had extremely thin arms and legs, prominent ribs and a protruded rounded stomach. This is the depressing picture of a malnourished child.

Is your child losing weight and appearing weaker by the day? Does he often suffer from infections and other health challenges, and are you worried that your child falls sick too often? If you answer or think in the affirmative then you need to read this post.

According to Mr. Samuel Ojile a nutritionist, a child suffers from malnutrition when his body does not get adequate amount of nutrients. These are essential components which help in growth processes. Additionally, the intake of these vital nutrients boosts the immune level and keeps children protected from harmful diseases.

He disclosed that “lack of nutrition can lead to several health disorders in children and that this deficiency of nutrients can affect their physical health, behavior, mood, growth processes and other body functions.

These are the most common types of malnutrition in children.Protein Energy Malnutrition, PEM, this is caused by a deficiency of protein and glucose in foods.There are three types of PEM: Acute malnutrition, Chronic malnutrition, and the third is a combination of both of them.

Acute malnutrition causes children to become thin, and loss body weight rapidly.In Chronic malnutrition, the children suffer from stunted growth. When a child suffers from both acute and chronic malnutrition,he becomes underweight and experiences multiple health discomforts.

“The shortage of certain micronutrients can lead to micronutrient deficiencies in  children. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals and children require these nutrients for proper body functions and growth processes”.

The nutritionist also disclosed that, “Malnutrition can be caused by poor Diet. When your children do not get adequate supply of nutrients through food, this Poor diet makes them suffer from nutrients deficiency, hence they may experience terrible health diseases and have difficulties in leading a healthy life.

A mentally retarded child has a higher chance of suffering from malnutrition. Due to such depressing mental condition, he may not be able to follow a proper eating habit.
Also, due to digestive disorders, a child’s body may not be able to absorb the nutrients in food. This deprives the body of vital nutrients, and can lead to malnutrition.

Lack Of Breastfeeding can also lead to malnutrition as breastfeeding helps infants to stay healthy and disease-free. Sometimes some mothers deprive their children of breastfeeding, for various reasons”.

Mr. Ojile emphasised that  lack of adequate breastfeeding can make children unhealthy and with age they can become malnourished. In underdeveloped countries where poverty prevails however, malnutrition is prevalent due to a shortage of food supply. Most of these countries cannot produce enough food for citizens due to lack of agricultural resources, hence underprivileged families and the children experience the condition of malnutrition.

The nutritionist enumerated some of the common symptoms of malnutrition, these could be sudden loss of weight, irritability, extreme tiredness, weakened immune system and longer healing time for wounds among others.

He further disclosed that severe cases could make the skin turn dry, pale and rough, the hair could become rough, dry and even begin falling off.Malnutrition could also lead to other adverse effects like mental retardation, slow behavioral development, reduced social skills, decreased IQ level and stunted growth.

Mr. Ojile advised parents to pay close attention to their children’s diets and make suitable additions of various classes of food nutrients to every meal. This will help improve nutritional intake and boost the immune system thereby keeping malnutrition at bay.

He further advised that parents keep a close track of their children’s Basal Metabolic Index, BMI, since the accurate reading of this indicates a child’s wellness. Parents must be observant to see when a child experiences difficulty in swallowing, eating or chewing his food so as to make necessary adjustments to his dietary food menu. Afterwards he can be fed soft and pureed food since he can eat these foods comfortably, giving his body all the vital nutrients.

During the growth period, parents should endeavor to pay regular visits to the pediatrician at least once in a month. The specialist will examine the child’s BMI, height and weight. This can help keep a close track of the child’s growth processes. This he said is necessary as any abnormality or sudden weight loss at this stage might be an indication of the onset of malnutrition in your children.


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