Parents often complain about reduced appetite in their children. However, it is common for children between the ages of two and five to experience a loss of appetite. But in some cases, it could be a cause of concern. Here, MomJunction tells you about the possible reasons for the loss of appetite in children, ways to correct it, and supplements that might help build it back.
When Should You Worry?
If your child has normal weight and height (for their age), then there might not be a reason to worry, as some children with a small built might have lesser food requirements and, therefore, a lesser appetite. But if your child is older and the loss of appetite is sudden, accompanied by weight loss, then you may consult a pediatrician to identify the cause and correct it.
Possible Reasons For Loss Of Appetite In Children
If your child is always tired and irritable, then it might be linked to a lack of appetite. Here are a few possible reasons why children might lose their appetite:
1. Slow growth rate
Changes in growth can cause an appetite slump in children. During the first year, children grow rapidly. But after that, the growth slows down, and they may eat less food. During this period, a decline in appetite is perfectly normal. In fact, in the second year of life, children only need to put on 2.3kg and 12 cm as opposed to 7 kg and 21 cm in the first year .
Illness can often result in a significant loss of appetite in children. If your child is suffering from a sore throat, stomach flu, diarrhea, headache, fever, or other symptoms, then they may eat less than what they usually do. Thankfully, most children regain their appetite when they get better.
Stress can have many negative effects, including loss of appetite, on young children. If you find that your child is losing interest in eating or having a hard time sleeping, then they may be suffering from stress. To address your child’s poor appetite, you need to identify the cause of stress and alleviate it. Some common causes of stress during childhood are:
- Family issues like a death in the family, death of a pet or the birth of a sibling
- Inability to cope with academic pressure and the impractical expectations of parents
Depression could be another reason for a child’s loss of appetite. Most parents mistake depression for sadness. But sadness and depression are not the same. Feelings of sadness go away with time, but depression does not. Depression not only makes the child sad but also interferes with their normal life.
If your child shows a significant lack of interest in activities that they previously enjoyed, then they may be depressed. A change in eating habits could be a strong indicator of depression. It is advisable to seek medical advice if you are concerned .
5. Anorexia nervosa
Sometimes, in a bid to emulate/ copy their screen idols and for several other reasons, children develop a psychological aversion to eating. They try to go without eating for as long as possible. Even when they eat, they choose low-fat foods and later feel guilty about eating them. Genetics, brain chemical imbalances, and developmental issues can also cause anorexia nervosa.
If your child is avoiding food or exercising more than they should, while losing weight drastically, they may be suffering from anorexia nervosa. An eating disorder specialist can tell you how to help your anorexic child regain a healthy appetite .
If the child has been on a recent course of antibiotics, their appetite may be affected. Several other medications could also affect appetite .
Anemia is another possible cause of a decline in a child’s appetite . Children with anemia seem lethargic, tired, and irritable. If left untreated, anemia can interfere with your child’s development and school performance . Get a blood test done if you suspect anemia in your child.
8. Intestinal worms
Intestinal worms can cause loss of appetite in children. Worms enter into a child’s digestive system and live there as parasites, causing intestinal bleeding, loss of appetite, dysentery, etc. Deworming medicine can be obtained through your pharmacist or doctor. If you have pets, deworm them twice a year and deworm your children after the age of two at least once a year or as advised by your pediatrician .
Irregular bowel movements in children can lead to . A loss of appetite in children could cause constipation. A sign of constipation is hard stools .
In addition to the above causes, the loss of appetite in children could be due to other reasons, such as authoritative parenting, how much food the mother offers, family meals, socioeconomic status, and fear of trying new foods.