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Home > Wellness > Health Library > Interactive Tool: What Is Your Child's BMI?
This tool calculates your child's body mass index (BMI), which provides a way to estimate the effect of weight on health. This tool also gives you your child's percentile on a growth chart. The
percentile is the number that ranks your child's BMI among the BMIs of children of
the same gender and age. Taking several BMI measurements over time can help you and your doctor assess
your child's growth.
can be used for children ages 2 through 19. Be cautious if you use this tool or
any height and weight charts to assess your child's growth after he or she
reaches puberty. Check with your doctor if you have questions.
If your child is on the
very low end of the percentile scale (for example, the 5th percentile), you may
be concerned that your child is too small. If this is the case, talk to your
doctor. It may be that your child has always been small and that this is the
normal growth pattern for him or her. Your doctor can check your child to make
sure that he or she is growing as expected.
Often parents of very
small children push their children to eat more because they are concerned about
their growth. This can cause problems. The child may resist the pressure to eat
and will not gain weight as well as he or she should. Pressuring children to
eat usually causes them to eat less, not more. Talk about your child's weight
with your doctor. As long as your child is growing normally, you can relax a
little about feeding him or her.
If your child is on the upper end
of the percentile scale (for example, the 95th percentile), you may be
concerned that your child is too big. If this is the case, talk to your doctor.
It may be that your child has always been large and that this is the normal
growth pattern for him or her. Your doctor can check your child to make sure
that he or she is growing in a healthy way.
Parents of larger children are
sometimes tempted to restrict what their children eat, to keep them from
gaining too much weight. This doesn't work. When a child doesn't get enough to
eat because food has been restricted, he or she learns to overeat when the
chance arises. These children end up gaining more weight, because they become
anxious about food and eat more when they get the chance. Again, it is good to
discuss your child's weight with a doctor who can help you see if your child's
growth is within his or her normal pattern.
Your child's weight
over time is the most important thing to think about when you are
concerned about what your child's weight should be at any age. Your child's
doctor will decide what your child's weight should be, based on what your
child's weight has been over time.
If you print a boy or girl growth chart, use the steps that follow. Then keep the chart so that you can track your child's percentile for several years.
Talk with your doctor about what your child's BMI means. Remember that BMI-for-age is just a guide. Finding that a child is "overweight" or "underweight" is a medical diagnosis. Your doctor can give you steps to take to help your child reach and stay at a healthy weight. These may include providing healthy foods and helping your
child be active for certain amounts of time.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). Healthy weight—It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle! About BMI for children and teens. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/childrens_bmi/about_childrens_bmi.html.
For more information, see these topics:
Other Works Consulted
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). Healthy weight—It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle! About BMI for children and teens. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/childrens_bmi/about_childrens_bmi.html.
August 19, 2013
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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