What You Need to Know About Average Height and Your Child
“Is my child average height?” That’s a question many parents ask themselves, and for good reason. A child’s short stature could indicate a medical problem. Children with short stature are in the third percentile or lower for their height and a short stature diagnosis is based on the growth chart your doctor uses.
According to Riley Children’s Health, children may struggle with height because of:
- Chronic conditions, like anemia, asthma, bone disease, celiac, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease or kidney disease
- Genetic conditions, including down syndrome
- Endocrine disorders, such as Hypopituitarism, Hypothyroidism or delayed puberty
These are a just a few potential causes the doctor will take into consideration. Your child will also be assessed with a physical exam, a blood test, and in some cases, a bone age test (an x-ray of the left hand and wrist).
The doctor will also consider the height of both parents, because 60 to 80 percent of your child’s height is determined by genetics, while the other 20 to 40 percent is affected by nutrition, physical activity and other outside factors, as described above.
If you’re wondering whether your child is average height or short stature, keep reading.
Is Your Child Average Height?
Your child is growing rapidly from birth through their teens. The Recommendations for Preventive Pediatric Health Care, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests checking in with the doctor for length/height and weight measurements at the following times:
- The first 3-5 days
- 1 month
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
- 12 months
- 15 months
- 18 months
- 24 months
- 30 months
From there, your child should have their annual check-up from 3 years through the age of 21. It is during these appointments when their pediatrician will likely notice a pattern of short stature, as they compare your child’s measurements against overall general growth, along with a growth chart.
At this time, the pediatrician will usually tell you what percentile your child falls into. But what does that mean? If your child is in the 50th percentile for height, 50 percent of children that same age are taller than them and 50 percent are shorter.
At-Home the Height Measurements
Stay on top of your child’s growth between appointments by measuring their height at home. While determining weight is as easy as stepping on a scale, you need to be precise when measuring height. Follow the instructions below:
- First, take your child’s weight.
- Next, measure height. Remove any clothing that may interfere with their height reading, like shoes and bulky clothes or accessories. Don’t forget to take girls’ hair down.
- Have your child stand on a flat surface, like kitchen linoleum, rather than a carpet. The child should be flat against the wall, with heels, buttocks, shoulders and head touching the wall.
- Next, place a flat cardboard or thin piece of wood level on the child’s head to form a right angle with the wall. Move the cardboard down until it is firmly placed against the top of the child’s head, with your child standing straight, no pushing down of the cardboard.
- Keep your eyes level with the cardboard to take the measurement. Where the bottom of the cardboard meets the wall—use a pencil to mark this on the wall itself, or tape a piece of paper to the wall before they back up to it and mark that.
- Now that you have your measurements, open Healthy Heights’ Child Growth Percentile Calculator. Enter their weight and height here, along with their gender and date of birth. This will tell you their Z-Score percentile.
- Check their percentile against CDC’s growth charts: one for boys and one for girls. If you’re having trouble understanding the chart, check out this helpful resource from HealthyChildren.org: How to Read a Growth Chart: Percentiles Explained.
What If My Child Isn’t Average Height?
There are many courses of action that can be taken if you find your child is not at the average height. First and foremost, make an appointment to see their pediatrician. Some children hit their growth spurt later, which doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem: “Constitutional growth delay is the medical term for late bloomers. These individuals are healthy and reach normal adult heights, but grow later than other children,” explains Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
If there’s an issue with short stature, your pediatrician may recommend a number of potential options depending on any underlying issues. There are three common treatment options:
Nutritional intervention: In some cases, children with short stature are not getting the nutrition they need to grow as they should. incorporating nutritional drinks, such as Healthy Height Shake Mix, as part of a balanced diet can help increase a child's rate of growth
The clinical study found that children who consumed at least half of the recommended daily intake of Healthy Height nutrition for 6 months demonstrated significant increases in height and weight, compared to children consuming the control supplement.
Growth hormone treatment: According to Yale Medicine, this is called Recombinant Growth Hormone, and it’s used to directly induce growth. Yale explains that this is often the treatment option for children who experience short stature as the result of a genetic syndrome. Learn more about growth hormone treatment in our blog post. Human Growth Hormone for Children: The Facts.
Low-Dose Testosterone: Yale explains that if your child is experiencing a delay in growth, the doctor may prescribe a low-dose testosterone treatment, which induces puberty and encourages growth.
If you’re regularly checking your child’s height, feeding him or her a balanced diet of whole, nutritious foods, staying active, and seeing the pediatrician each year, you’re doing all the right things. If short stature becomes a problem, discuss with a health professional. Your child may be well on their way to an average height, but just growing a little slower than his or her peers.
If you want to learn more, check out some of our other resources: