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Understanding Growth Charts for Kids

by | Oct 7, 2023

Before you know it, your kids will be fully grown. We know it’s sad to think that our babies won’t be small one day.

But tracking their progress along the way is important, which is why growth charts for kids come in handy.

Growth charts allow parents and medical professionals to see how their child is progressing physically in terms of height and weight. 

You can quickly tell if they’re ahead or behind the curve that’s typical for their age, which may or may not be a cause for concern. We’ll talk about why that may be the case in a bit, but first, let’s cover how to understand growth charts.

How Growth Charts Work

Growth charts plot the data (i.e., height, weight, head circumference) on a chart with percentile lines to give you an at-a-glance look at your child’s progress. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created a formula for calculating expected height and weight for children at every age. These values are broken down into percentiles, which show you where your child sits when compared to their peers. They’re also used to calculate the body mass index (BMI) by age. 

For example, if your child is in the 95th percentile for height, that means they are taller than 95% of children their age. If they’re in the 25th percentile for weight, that means they’re heavier than 25% of kids their age (and lighter than 75%).

Charts can also be used to track progress for motor skill milestones, arm circumference, skinfold thickness, and more useful data. 

These values are recorded regularly and plotted on a chart as your child ages. This way, you can see a clear growth pattern that may accelerate or slow as the years go by. 

The CDC recommends using the charts created by the World Health Organization (WHO) for children 0 to 2 years of age in the U.S. and the CDC kids’ growth charts for children over the age of 2.

Why Use Growth Charts? 

Tracking a child’s weight and height is important because they give us valuable insight not just into their current health but also into any potential underlying conditions that might affect their growth later.

Of course, there aren’t many hard-and-fast rules about whether or not a lower (or higher) score for any metric is something to be worried about. Some kids will just be naturally smaller than others. Genetics plays a major role in determining how big your children will ultimately be. It’s also not uncommon to see a child go from, say, a below-average height to an above-average height with a few growth spurts.

There’s cause for concern, however, if the growth pattern is being affected by underlying medical or environmental conditions.

These could include a chronic illness, malnutrition, a viral or bacterial infection, poor appetite, a slower metabolism than what is healthy, obesity, chronic and severe stress, mental health illness, digestive tract issues, diabetes, or any other possible factors.

That’s why regularly updating child growth is important. A physician can spot potential warning signs and can also see if a condition is causing abnormal progress to the point where an intervention may be required.

Urgent care services for kids can help you begin or continue tracking progress on a growth chart. 

How to Deal With Below or Above-Average Height and Weight

As mentioned, children significantly vary when it comes to weight and height. Some children are just naturally smaller or larger. 

However, a medical professional may decide to intervene if these values don’t make the expected progress.

This can include the following:

  • Modifications to a child’s diet to make sure they’re eating in proper amounts and proportions
  • Medications that can spur a child’s appetite
  • Nutritional supplements to make sure the child is getting enough macronutrients, calories, and vitamins 
  • Referrals to a specialist if there is an underlying condition that requires more serious intervention
  • Visits to a child psychiatrist and counselor/therapist

Consult with a medical professional if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s progress (questions are always welcome!).

It’s fun—and bittersweet—to watch your child grow up. But it’s always good to see a healthy, happy kiddo, and using child growth charts can help make that happen.

Keep track of your child’s health with regular visits to one of our urgent care locations. You can register online, so you don’t have to wait as long and be in and out in a snap. We also accept walk-ins daily. However, walk-ins will be added to the same queue as those who register online. 

Here’s to a healthy and happy kiddo!

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