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Is Your Child Underweight? Doctor Shares Signs To Watch Out For

When it comes to kids, parents should know how to differentiate between ‘healthy skinny’ and being underweight. 

Tenzin Chodon
Written by: Tenzin ChodonUpdated at: Apr 20, 2023 08:30 IST
Is Your Child Underweight? Doctor Shares Signs To Watch Out For

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Every parent wants their child to be healthy. By healthy, we mean both physically and mentally fit. When it comes to our children’s physical fitness, their weight is an essential determinator. As known, maintaining a healthy weight is one of the critical aspects of ensuring a disease-free life. However, many parents misinterpret healthy weight as being ‘skinny,’ which is untrue. While obesity is a growing health challenge in the country, being underweight can also be concerning, especially in children. We, the OnlyMyHealth editorial team, spoke with Dr Praveena NB, Consultant, General Paediatrics, Amrita Hospital, Kochi, to understand what qualifies as underweight and signs to note in kids. 

Also Read: Reasons And Causes Of Childhood Obesity Explained By Doctor

Differentiate Between Healthy Skinny Vs. An Underweight Child

According to Dr Praveena, looking skinny or being a picky eater is a common complaint that brings parents to the paediatrician.

“Normal weight and height actually has a wide range. So kids of the same age can differ in their growth parameters depending on a lot of factors,” she says.

She adds, “One way to know is to plot weight and height in a growth chart and ensure it falls within the lines. There are weights for age charts, height for age charts and weight for height charts. Anything which is between the 3rd percentile and 97th percentile is considered 'normal'.

As per the paediatrician, growth charts are provided by international bodies like the World Health Organization (WHO) or the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But we have Indian growth charts by the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP). So if any of the growth parameters like weight, height or weight for height is low, it warrants a visit to the paediatrician to find out the cause, followed by necessary measures. 

Also Read: 7 Food Combinations That Are Bad For Infants

Signs Of An Underweight Child

Knowing whether a child is underweight or just healthy skinny can be difficult. But here are some signs to watch out for:

  • A child has had no weight gain over the past six months, or more than 10% of body weight is lost over three months. 
  • Visible severe wasting, where kids appear like skin and bones or develop generalised oedema due to malnutrition 
  • They are very short compared to peers or height velocity (height increment in a year) less than 4 cm in mid-childhood, especially when parents are of average height.


Thin or plumpy does not matter if your child is healthy and mentally fit. However, if you notice any of the traits mentioned above in your child, visit a paediatrician. As much as obesity is a concern in our country, being underweight can also be problematic. The key is to help your child with proper nutrition and daily exercise. Develop a routine that encourages healthy lifestyle habits.