Absenteeism due to frequent illnesses
Another hint that your child is undernourished (or close to becoming one) is their school performance.
You might notice that their test scores are lower, or they are failing even their most liked subjects. The teacher may also send you a note about a worrying decline in their academic performance.
They may have lower grades because of bouts of illnesses that cause them to miss classes. Remember that undernutrition makes them vulnerable to infections like diarrheal diseases; it also significantly increases their recovery and wound healing time.
Other signs of undernutrition
Undernourished kids may also show other signs, including:
- Brittle or thin hair
- Dry skin
- Nail cracks
- Peeling skin
- Swollen extremities
- Inability to keep warm
How Can Parents Intervene
The treatment for undernutrition depends on how severe it is. For example, severe wasting can be life-threatening, and often, kids will not have the strength to eat. To treat it, the doctor will admit the child to the hospital and give them intravenous or tube feedings.
However, if we catch the signs of undernutrition early on, we will most likely prevent a severe case. The doctor may advise you to:
Keep track of your child’s diet
Ensuring that kids eat the right kinds of foods at the right time prevents undernourishment. The “right kind” means that they eat various foods: fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean meat, and dairy. “Right time” often means 3 main meals and healthy snacks in between.
Another challenging part for parents is when their kids refuse to eat. The reasons for this vary: they could be picky eaters, or are experiencing appetite loss or health problems that prevent them from eating (dental problems, difficulty swallowing, etc.)
Match their caloric intake with their needs
Another possibility why kids become undernourished is because they consume fewer calories than they need.
Remember that young kids grow steadily and are more physically active. Take note if they ask for seconds during mealtime; it could be that they are still hungry.
Give them vitamin supplements
And finally, to prevent micronutrient deficiency, the doctor may give your child vitamin supplements. They will also encourage you to choose fortified foods whenever you can.
Learn more about Childhood Malnutrition here.