Patient Information

Short height in children


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This gives information on short height (also known as short stature) in children.  Short height is common, but it can be worrying for parents and young people.

When do I seek advice from my GP?

Before you seek advice from your GP, it is important to consider the following:

  • is your child growing slowly?
  • how does their height compare to other family members?

Seek advice from your GP if any of the following apply.

  • Your child’s height does not increase during a 6 month period. 
  • Your child is on a lower centile than they used to be in their growth chart.
  • You are worried that your child is overweight and short in height.
  • You are worried about other symptoms your child has in addition to short height.  These can include tummy pain, headaches, or frequent infections.

What can my GP do to help my child?

Your GP may track your child’s growth and height on a chart, or in your child’s Red Book. They may do this for a few months to see if it changes. They also may organise some tests. 

They may refer your child to a paediatric clinic to see a paediatrician (a doctor who specialises in child health).

They may refer your child to a paediatric endocrine specialist (a child’s health doctor who specialises in hormones).

What happens if my child is referred to a paediatric clinic?

Children and parents can be anxious about medical examinations.  It is often helpful to discuss the examination with your child in advance of the appointment.

When you arrive at reception, let us know if you want us to provide you with a chaperone for the appointment. A chaperone is a neutral observer.

If your child sees a paediatrician or a paediatrics endocrine specialist, the following is likely to happen:

Boiy measuring his height
  • The paediatrician will make a growth and height assessment of your child.
  • They will ask you questions about your child’s medical history. This includes their birth history, growth and health in the first year of life and their general health now.  Remember to take your child’s ‘Red Book’ or growth charts with you so they can see how your child has grown over time.
  • If the child’s parents are present at the appointment, the paediatrician will measure their height as well.  This helps to predict genetic (family history) potential for growth. If only one parent attends the appointment, it is helpful if they take along a note of the other parent’s height. 
  • The paediatrician will carry out a physical examination to check for any underlying health conditions and signs of early puberty. They will check breast development in girls and examine testes (testicles or balls) in boys. The clinician will take time to reassure you both and answer any questions you have.

Will my child need tests?

Your child’s GP may have already arranged some tests, but most tests will be organised at the paediatric clinic. We will carry out the following tests.

  • Blood tests.  These are usually done on the day of the appointment (unless the child is under 7 years old).  Under 7 year olds will usually have to come back for an appointment at a later date.
  • A wrist X ray to assess your child’s ‘bone age’. The bone age will be helpful to understand your child’s predicted height. If the bone age is younger than your child’s actual age, this shows they have further growth potential.

You will be able to discuss the test results with the paediatrician. Together you can decide the best course of action for your child.

Will my child need treatment?

Most children who are referred with short height do not require treatment. Usually the most important things for us to do are the following.

  • Understand growth patterns of the child (and their family).
  • Exclude any underlying medical or nutritional issues.
  • Monitor the child’s growth over a period of time. This allows us to check that they ‘catch up’ with other children of their age group.

In rare cases, a child might need extra tests or they might require us to prescribe growth hormones. This treatment is given by a paediatric endocrinologist.  If this is needed, we will discuss this with you and your child. 

What can I do to help my child at home?

Short height can be upsetting to your child, particularly in the years leading up to and during puberty. You can support your child during this time by encouraging them to do the following:

  • talk about their worries
  • ask their own questions at their medical appointments
  • seek support from their GP or school counsellor if needed.

More information

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Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health information on short height

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Short height in children - Kingston Hospital Download PDF


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