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Weight problems in children - How does my doctor diagnose if my child is overweight?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Here are some things your doctor might do to help work out if your child is at a healthy weight or not.

Questions your doctor might ask

Here are some of the things your child’s doctor might ask.[28]

  • Whether you or your child think your child is at a healthy weight for their height and age.

  • Whether you or your child want to change your child’s weight.

  • Whether your child has any other health problems: for example, snoring, or breathing problems like asthma.

  • How your child feels about his or her weight, and whether he or she is teased or bullied because of it.

  • Whether other people in your family have had difficulty keeping to a healthy weight.

  • About the food you and your family eat, and how you eat (for example, at shared family meals, or separately in front of the television).

  • About the amount of activity or exercise your family takes.

  • Any other factors that could make it harder for your child to be a healthy weight.

  • Whether your child has reached puberty, and whether he or she has stopped growing in height.

Physical examination

Your child’s doctor should measure your child’s height and weight. He or she should then work out your child’s body mass index (BMI). Because children grow at different rates through their childhood, the doctor will then compare this figure to growth charts for boys and girls at different ages.[28]

Doctors in the UK use the 1990 BMI charts. These charts show the range of heights and weights of children of both sexes and at all ages, measured in 1990. Doctors use them to work out how your child’s BMI compares with that of the average child of his or her age and sex.

Your doctor will then be able to say whether your child is overweight, or at risk of becoming overweight. Some doctors might say a child is obese. This means they are very overweight, compared with other children who are the same age and sex.

The doctor shouldn’t base their diagnosis just on how your child looks, or how much he or she weighs. These things don’t tell us enough to know if a child is at a healthy weight.[17]

Tests your doctor might order

Your doctor probably won’t order any tests at this stage.

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Last Updated: January 19, 2011
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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