Children not only come in all shapes and sizes, but they all also grow and develop at different rates. While a normal height and weight for one child may differ from the norm for another, health-care professionals can still determine if a child is growing properly by using a simple traditional tool called a growth chart.
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Your child's height and weight provide a window into her overall health. To evaluate your child's health accurately, however, her doctor must somehow compare her measurements to those of other children of the same age and gender. Also called height-and-weight charts, growth charts allow doctors to accomplish that goal easily by measuring your child's height and weight during appointments and keeping track of the information over time to establish your child's unique growth pattern.
Growth Chart Features
Growth charts are a staple of childhood visits to the doctor in the United States, explains the National Institutes of Health. Doctors use one type to track the head circumference, length and weight of children up to age 3 in terms of gender. Another type of growth chart tracks the height and weight of children ages 2 to 20 years old in terms of gender. Head circumference is important for infants because it reflects brain development.
Importance of Body Mass Index
Head circumference is less relevant for children older than 3 because brain development is more advanced then. However, body fat becomes more significant because it can indicate if a child is at risk of joining the increasing number of people who are overweight or obese. Health-care professionals determine your child's body fat by calculating his body mass index. They also compare the BMI figure to other children of the same age and gender to help to determine if your child's weight is appropriate.
If your child's height or weight measurements are consistently or substantially different from the measurements of other children of the same age and gender, the difference may indicate she has a medical condition that requires monitoring or treatment. Her doctor may also become concerned if her pattern of height or weight gain suddenly changes from the pattern it followed previously, or if her rate of height and weight gain becomes unbalanced such that she is growing faster one way than the other, according to KidsHealth.
Although no child grows at the same rate her entire life and growth spurts are common, notes KidsHealth, sudden or drastic changes could indicate a health problem. For example, the National Institutes of Health notes that an abnormal height or weight could indicate a child has an underlying illness or parents who neglect him. As a result, health-care professionals recommend tracking your child's height and weight from infancy, and his body mass index as early as age 2 to help prevent him from becoming overweight.