By Health Promotion Board in collaboration with A/Prof Marion Aw, Senior Consultant, Division of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Nutrition, Hepatology and Liver Transplantation, National University Hospital.

Being short does not mean that your child has a health problem. A short child is defined as any child whose height is less than the 3rd percentile for his or her cohort. A quick check with your doctor will let you know if your child’s growth and height are acceptable. It is important that you track your child's growth (both height and weight) regularly. 

It Runs in the Family

If both mum and dad are shorter than the average Singaporean, then it is not uncommon for the child to be slighter shorter than his peers. Familial short stature—or, genetics—makes up 40% of all cases of short children.

Sometimes, children are late bloomers; it might take them a little while longer before they catch up in height with their peers. If mum and dad were late developers and experienced a growth spurt later on in their teenage years, it is possible that the little one would take after them and experience his growth spurt slightly later.

Of course, nutrition also has a part to play in determining height, so it is essential that you make sure your growing child continues to get all the nutrition he needs on a daily basis.

Related: Sit up Straight, Darling

When Should You Be Concerned about Short Stature

If however, you notice that your child has stopped growing, consult your doctor. A child’s growth is considered acceptable if he grows by at least 4 cm in a year, or 2 cm in 6 months.

Sometimes, poor growth may be a sign of a health problem. Issues that could affect your child’s growth rate could include having an underlying chronic disease, or medical conditions such as Turner syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome, or a growth hormone deficiency.

Turner syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that is found only in girls. It happens when a female is missing certain genes that are normally on the X chromosome, and it can cause problems ranging from short stature to heart defects.

Cushing’s syndrome is a result of excess stress hormone cortisol. Children with Cushing’s syndrome are usually very heavy, and tend to grow slowly.

A child with a growth hormone deficiency has severe short stature relative to his weight.

If your doctor is concerned about a medical issue causing your child to be short or not grow well, he/she will conduct tests to check for them.

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