José Antonio Martínez Orgado, chief of neonatology at the San Carlos Clinical Hospital in Madrid, recommends patience to parents who flock to the consultation because of their son’s short stature: “We are not like plants, which grow uniformly. we make streaks and each child has his process. ” The largest stretch occurs in the first twelve months, an average of 25 centimeters, and then in puberty. Between the first and third year of life, 20 centimeters are gained; and up to nine, five or six centimeters per year. Except in babies, the development oscillates so much that it is useless to check the size every month; with a biannual measurement is enough.
Newborns who measure -in a term pregnancy- less than 48 centimeters and weigh below 2.6 kilos will have compensated for that reduced size at two years. This is possible because the factors that determine the growth in pregnancy and after birth are not the same. A note: 10% of premature babies do not reach the height that would correspond genetically.
Height is still a mystery in many aspects, but auxology, the discipline that studies growth in living beings, can determine, measuring the baby between twenty months and two years of life, what will be his adult height, as long as a disease does not alter the development. From the data obtained by paediatricians for decades, an approximate formula is deduced: the definitive height can be obtained by multiplying by two the one recorded by girls at twenty months and children at twenty-four. Thus, a baby with 95 centimeters, at the end of its growth will measure 1.90 meters, centimeter up or down.
The growth spurt that some children hit during the summer period does not have to do with spending more time outdoors. “If the solar radiation determines the stature, the kids in the tropics would be the highest in the world and the short Nordic, and it’s not like that,” says Martínez Orgado. Taking in the sun twenty minutes a day is enough to synthesize the amount of vitamin D that the body needs. This nutrient is essential in the bone mineralization and, therefore, in the growth, although the effect is not seen immediately.
If the adolescent has not reached the final size, among the factors that can most alter it are anorexia or bulimia, since the body stops receiving essential nutrients. Paloma Ferrero, pediatrician of the Hospital Quirónsalud of Madrid, cites other conditions that may affect growth, “digestive diseases such as celiac disease and heart disease.” In general, those disorders modify where there is a hormonal alteration or there is an imbalance between intake and energy consumption. ”
Growth hormone or somatotropin is used only when the body does not generate it. ” The most frequent is that there is a failure in the pituitary gland, where it segregates,” explains Martínez Orgado. Since it interferes with the control of glucose and can increase the level of blood sugar, the doctor states that “you have to control the dose and the period of administration very much.”
An economic recession reduces income, affects food and, therefore, affects the size of the new generations. According to a 2015 survey by the Center for Sociosanitary Studies of the University of Castilla-La Mancha, the difference in height between the children of parents with lower economic status and those of higher status is between four and five centimeters. The study reached this conclusion after analyzing the schoolchildren of twenty-one schools born in 2007 and 2008 -they have grown in the middle of a crisis-; on the other hand, those who saw the light between 1999 and 2000 did not show significant differences according to the income of their parents.
A study by the consortium Genetic Research of Anthropometric Traits (GIANT) says that height depends on seven hundred genetic variants. But it is not the only thing that influences the size. “It obeys equally to hereditary and environmental factors, such as food and exercise, which may or may not favor the child reaching or exceeding its potential growth,” says Martínez Orgado. The normal thing is that it exceeds in a little the target size, the average figure of the stature of the mother and the father. If these measure 1.60 and 1.70 meters, respectively, the shank can exceed in a few centimeters the 1.65. However, however well-nourished he may be, he can rule out being a professional basketball player in the future.
A phase of accelerated development coincides with what is known as a pubertal growth spurt, which begins at the age of nine. The period indicates the maturity of the body of a woman,also in stature, but has not yet reached final height. “The peak of growth of girls occurs before the first rule, after a few centimeters are gained,” says Dr. Ferrero.
Unless the lack of any nutrient is detected, it is not necessary to take vitamin or mineral supplements. “Many parents administer them on their own without taking into account that excess can be harmful,” explains Dr. Martínez Orgado. A rapid development does not require adopting special precautionary measures; only 3% of children have scoliosis or curvature of the spine. “You have to be vigilant when there is a deviation of the back, because in the phases of greater growth the problem can be accentuated.