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Percentiles keep many moms and dads awake, although they often don't know the exact meaning of that expression. The term percentile is a statistical concept of position. It helps us pediatricians to evaluate the weight and height of a specific child, based on their age and sex.
Let's take an example to understand it: Let's imagine a row of 100 children of the same age, arranged in order of height from least to greatest (1 is the shortest in the class and 100, the tallest). If you have been told that your child is in the 15th percentile, it would rank 15th in that row.
To determine what percentile the baby or child is in, we consult the growth charts (there are many; for example, the WHO, Hernández, Orbegozo, etc). In them, we can see multiple lines with numbers (3, 10, 25, 50, 75, 90 and 97).
For example, here are two percentiles, height only, for children 2 years and older:
And this is an example of percentiles for girls from 2 years:
Interpreting the percentiles for infants and toddlers is very personal. I am an optimistic pediatrician, and that is why I like to report positively. For example, if the child is in the 25th percentile in height, I tell the moms / dads that their child is taller than 25% of the child of their gender and age (which is correct, although it is no less true that 75% of children his age are taller than he is). If he is in a 10th percentile for weight, I tell them that his son weighs more than 10% of children of his gender and age (telling them that 90% weighs more than he usually makes them very uneasy).
What is normal and what is not?
We give special importance to those situations in which there is a drop of several percentiles over time. For example: if the girl was in a 75th percentile at 18 months, and three months later she is in a 25th percentile, it is necessary to study if there has been any health problem that has justified it (for example, celiac disease).
From a strictly theoretical point of view, we consider weight or short height in a child over one month old if it is below the 3rd percentile, although many children in the lower percentile do not have any disease, but simply 'are like that'.
In general, short stature is one that is below two standard deviations for age and sex on the height curve of the percentile tables. I tell you the causes that can cause a delay in growth:
- The genetic. Short family stature, presented by children with short parents. It causes a constitutional delay in growth, which affects males more and begins in childhood with a slowdown in the rate of growth, despite being born with normal height and weight.
- Congenital disorders. The most common cause is growth retardation inside the mother's uterus, due to infection, exposure to radiation or taking any medication, drug, alcohol or tobacco, for which, in many cases, there is no treatment.
- Pathologies. Disease for which, in many cases, there is an effective treatment. The pathologies that have the most incidence in the pattern of child growth are: malnutrition, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and kidney diseases, and endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism, growth hormone deficiency and Cushing's syndrome.
You can read more articles similar to What are the percentiles of children, in the Health on site category.