Malnutrition results from a diet that is lacking vital nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. This insufficient nutrients intake with the food may lead to various nutrition disorders, such as scurvy – a condition that occurs due to insufficient intake of vitamin C.
Malnutrition is the most common among children; various reasons could result in this condition such as children being picky with food or low budget. Children with malnutrition may often show reduced perception with the five senses, lacking interest in activities, weak immune system, is the thin or bloated stomach, and may also look short for their age.
Signs & symptoms of malnutrition in children include:
- Slow growth. This may be evident as failing to grow according to a normal expected rate in terms of height, weight or both.
- Dry and flaky skin, hair may also become dull, dry, and straw like in appearance. Sometimes, they may also have extensive hair loss.
- Sluggishness, inactive, irritability and excessive crying along with changes in behavior, including anxiety, attention deficit are common symptoms.
- Limbs may appear more like a stick, because of muscle wasting and lack of strength in the muscles.
- The abdomen is swollen as a result of lack of strength of the muscles of the abdomen. This leads to the contents of the abdomen to protrude out making the abdomen to swell. Legs are swollen because of edema, which is the result of lack of essential nutrients. These two symptoms are more prominent in malnourished children.
- Two types of protein energy malnutrition (PEM) in children are found, including Marasmus and Kwashiorkor.
- In children with Marasmus, there may be excessive weight loss with muscle wasting. There is very little or no fat beneath the skin. The skin folds are thin and face looks pinched like a monkey or old man. Hair is brittle or sparse.
- In Kwashiorkor the child represents 1 and 2 hair changing color to a listless gray, red or blonde. A face looks round with swollen abdomen and legs. Skin is dry and dark with stretch marks.
- In nutrition scarcity, the child looks stunted in growth.
Other physical symptoms are listed below:
- bruising easily
- changes in skin pigmentation
- pale, thick, and/or dry skin
- thin, brittle hair that pulls out easily
- achy joints
- swollen or shriveled and cracked tongue
- bleeding gums
- night blindness
- increased sensitivity to light
- soft bones that are tender
- muscle twitches
- goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)
- fatigue, dizziness
- loss of reflexes and coordination