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Growth Hormones for Kids

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More and more short kids are getting a boost from growth hormones.

This morning, the "Today" show featured kids on growth hormones. Check out the video:

Is this okay? Here's what pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson has to say:

By definition, 2.5% of the population is short. This is because short stature is defined as "a standing height more than 2 standard deviations (SDs) below the mean (or below the 2.5 percentile) for gender."

There are three reasons why people are short: (1) their parents are short (this is called genetic or familial short stature), (2) they have (or had) some sort of chronic disease affecting growth, or (3) they are "late bloomers" who will grow but haven't gotten there yet (also called constitutional growth delay).

Growth hormone can be given to stimulate growth. However, there are a number of things people need to know about growth hormone before they ask for it:

1. It is given in a shot (you cannot take an oral form)

2. It is used for specific conditions (like growth hormone deficiency, chronic renal failure, Turner syndrome, babies born small for gestational age, and so on) but it is not indicated when a parent simply wants their child to be taller.

3. It is often given by endocrinologists (doctors who specialize in hormones) rather than general pediatricians.

4. It doesn't always work

Reactions to the medicine may include: pain at the injection site, temporary swelling of the hands or feet, joint or muscle pain, headache, elevated blood pressure, and other symptoms. There is a question as to whether growth hormone administration increases a child's risk for leukemia--this has not been established definitively.

MY BOTTOM LINE: For some children, growth hormone is a remarkable medicine. In some cases, children who have chronic illnesses that causes them to be profoundly short--under five feet tall--face hardships in their daily adult lives that can now be avoided altogether with appropriate growth hormone treatment. But this is not a drug to be used lightly. I think physicians have always had profound respect for the potency of growth hormone and families who are considering it must know the benefits and the risks.

What do you think about kids taking growth hormones?

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2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Ursula November 7, 2008, 12:43 PM

My daughter stopped growing in 2nd grade. Her yearly growth rate was 1/2” and she was having a difficult time dealing with it as well as the comments with the school. She was on growth hormone for five years and is now a beautiful, young lady. I never regret the decision for her to take the growth hormone, nor does she. She didn’t have any side effects other than the fact that it hurt when she gave herself the shot and it was a nuisance to have blood splotches every once in a while from the injection site. My son is also short, but he is not growth hormone deficient as he grows approximately 2” per year. Even though we inquired about the growth hormone for him, our doctor just states he is a late bloomer, which is good, because late bloomers (even though it is hard on them socially now) will actually turn out to be taller than if they went through their growth spurt earlier on. We’ll see.!

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