Failure to thrive (FTT) is a description applied to children whose current
weight or rate of weight gain is significantly lower than that of other children
of the same age and sex. It usually affects children in the age range from
0 to 5 years of age. Several different factors can be the cause of FTT such
as medical problems due to disease or psychosocial environmental problems such
as parental inexperience, abuse and neglect. 3 to 5% of all children
admitted to specialized care facilities and 1% of all children admitted to any
hospital have failure to thrive.
One of the first signs of FTT is persistent vomiting in an infant
between 0 to 6 months of age. In addition, their height, weight and head circumference
do not progress normally, as measured on doctors' growth charts. The
development of physical skills are slow, as in, turning over in bed, sitting,
standing and walking. Also, their mental and social skills are delayed,
such as talking, social interaction, self-feeding, and toilet training.
Some other factors that may
cause FTT are malnutrition, chronic disease, kidney failure, chronic infection,
and genetic disorders such as Down's Syndrome or Cystic Fibrosis. Endocrine diseases including disorders of the thyroid, pituitary,
adrenal, pancreas and sexual glands can be the cause of FTT. Normal growth
and development vary widely. The rate of
change as measured at regular medical checkups is more significant in diagnosing
Major risk factors include poverty, parents who were raised in a negative
emotional environment or are poorly educated, and crowded or unsanitary living
conditions. To prevent complications or recurrence you should arrange for
parenting classes if you are an expectant mother or father. Also, take
your child regularly to the doctor for "well-baby" checkups.
Basic information and medical tests can alert you as to whether your child
has FTT or not. First and foremost are your own observations of symptoms.
Know your child's medical history. Physicians may perform tests on your
child such as the Denver Developmental Test which measures the child's growth
and development, laboratory blood tests, hormone studies, and x-rays of the
child's hands which provide a good measure of body growth.
If not treated immediately FTT can cause permanent mental, emotional and
physical disability. If a child's failure to thrive is caused by parental
inexperience or psychological problems, recovery is possible with education and
counseling for the parents. If a child's failure to thrive is caused by an
underlying physical illness or disorder, including malnutrition, recovery
depends on whether the condition can be corrected.
Griffith, M.D., H. Winter. Complete Guide to Pediatric Symptoms, Illness &
Medications. : , 1998.