13 Characteristics of Malnourished Children & Their Causes (Mothers Must Know!)

13 Characteristics of Malnourished Children & Their Causes (Mothers Must Know!)

Malnourished children will have a bad impact because nutrition is a very important element for children’s growth and development. With good nutrition, the body will be fresh and children can do their activities well. Nutrition must be fulfilled since I was a baby because besides being important for growth, it is also important for brain development. For that, parents must understand the nutritional needs, so that children do not experience malnutrition. In addition, parents must also know the characteristics of malnourished children and how to overcome them.

What Is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition or poor nutrition is a condition that results from malnutrition or excessive consumption. Malnourished children usually experience vitamin and mineral deficiencies, especially iron, zinc, vitamin A and iodine. However, malnutrition can also occur with excess nutrition.

It is possible to be overweight or obese from consuming excessive calories, but not getting enough vitamins and minerals at the same time.

That’s because foods that trigger bad nutrition, like fried foods and sweet foods, tend to be high in calories and fat but low in other nutrients.

Characteristics of Children Malnutrition

According to Dr. Sri Kurniati MS, Medical Nutrition Specialist at Harapan Kita Maternity Hospital and Children, the characteristics of malnourished children are divided into three, the following are:

1. Mild protein-energy deficiency

At this stage, Sri explained that there were no specific signs that could be seen clearly. It’s just that a child’s weight reaches only 80 percent of normal body weight.

2. Moderate lack of protein-energy

At this stage, the child’s weight reaches only 70 percent of normal body weight. In addition, there are signs that can be clearly seen that the face has turned pale, and the hair color has turned reddish.

3. Lack of heavy protein energy

In this section, it is divided into two parts, which are very less, commonly called marasmus and kwashiorkor. Here’s the explanation:

  • Marasmus

The sign of this marasmus is that the child’s weight reaches only 60 percent or less than normal body weight.

  • Kwashiorkor

In addition to marasmus, there is another called kwashiorkor. In kwashiorkor, besides weight, there are several other signs that can be directly seen. Among other things are swollen feet, red hair and easily revoked, then due to vitamin A deficiency, the eyes become farsighted, corneas experience dryness, and sometimes ulcers occur in the cornea, so the eyes can rupture.

In addition to these signs or symptoms, there are also other signs, such as accompanying diseases. These accompanying diseases, for example, are anemia or lack of blood, infections, diarrhea that often occurs, the skin crusts and cracks so that it comes out of fluid, and cracks in the corners of the mouth.

Other characteristics of malnourished children are as follows:

4. Lack of calcium

Characteristics of undernourished children are usually difficult to sleep, fussing, seizures and weak heartbeat of children. This condition is likely due to a lack of calcium.

5. Lack of vitamin C

The characteristics of malnourished children usually have matted hair, easily tired, and have wounds that are difficult to heal. Children who lack vitamin C, also experience depression, such as children who are fussy, not passionate, and depressed.

6. Iron deficiency

Characteristics of children iron deficiency aka difficulty breathing, look pale, weak, often cold, and fussy. Growth and cognitive abilities of malnourished children are also hampered.

 7. Lack of vitamin D

The characteristics of children who are deficient in vitamin D will affect bone growth. Characteristics are changes in the shape of the curved bone such as the shape of O or X.

8. Lack of protein

Children who lack protein are usually characterized by dry and discolored hair, dry and dull skin, distended abdomen, slow growth of wounds that do not heal, and experience weight loss.

9. Lack of zinc (zinc)

Characteristics of malnourished children on this one are easy to experience pain and no appetite so that the body’s development is hampered. Even worse if not treated immediately, due to this condition the child is at risk of losing weight, impaired vision, hair loss, and digestive disorders.

10. Iodine deficiency

Characteristics of children lacking iodine usually experience enlargement of the thyroid gland or goiter, stunted physical growth of children, and even at risk of psychologically disturbing the child.

11. Lack of Vitamin A

This vitamin is good for vision, but if this type of malnutrition will decrease the ability of vision in children, and even inflammation of the lining of the eyes.

12. Lack of Vitamin K

Characteristics of this type of malnourished children usually appear on the child’s skin such as bruises, pale and yellowish, nosebleeds without cause, vomiting and sometimes fussing.

13. Lack of fatty acids

The next characteristic of malnourished children is a deficiency of fatty acids, which is characterized by a child’s decreased appetite, fever, vomiting, pale skin, and easy sleepiness.

Causes of Malnutrition in Children

Malnutrition in children can occur in toddlers (under five years). “The guideline for knowing malnourished children is to look at weight and height that are less than normal,” Sri said. Sri added, if the child’s height does not continue to increase or less than normal, it indicates that the child is malnourished for a long time.

Sri explained, there are several factors that cause malnutrition in children:

1. Age gap brother & sister

The distance between brother and sister ages that are too close also affects. Thus, the mother’s attention to the older sister has been absorbed by the presence of her younger sister, so that the sister tends to be neglected and unnoticed by the food. Therefore finally the brother becomes malnourished. “Toddlers are passive consumers, unable to take care of themselves, especially to eat,” Sri said.

2. Easy infection

The next cause of malnutrition, children who have started walking easily become infected and are also easily infected by other diseases.

3. Environmental cleanliness

The environment is less clean, so children easily get sick. Because of these ailments, children become malnourished.

4. Lack of knowledge about nutrition

Lack of knowledge about nutrition can also be a cause of malnutrition in children. “Pure malnutrition is due to food,” Sri said. According to Sri, parents must be able to provide food that has enough nutritional content. “It doesn’t have to be expensive, it can also be given cheap food, as long as the quality is good,” Sri continued. Therefore, parents must be smart to choose food for children.

5. Economic conditions

Difficult socio-economic conditions of the family. This factor affects quite a lot, because if children are rarely eating, then they will automatically be malnourished.

6. Congenital disease

Apart from food, malnourished children can also be due to a congenital disease that forces the child to be treated. For example congenital heart and lung disease.

How do you deal with malnutrition in children?

If the child is malnourished, he will be very susceptible to various diseases, difficult to recover for a long time. Thus this condition will also affect the development of children’s intelligence. For this reason, for children who are malnourished, efforts must be made to improve their nutrition.

These efforts include increasing parents’ knowledge about nutrition, providing treatment to the child, by providing food that can make their nutritional status better. Thus, the selection of good food for children must be done. According to Sri, good food is food that has good quantity and quality.

Food with a good quantity is food that is given in accordance with the needs of the child. For example, giving children food how many dishes a day is according to their needs. And it would be better if you provide vitamins and protein through milk.

For families who cannot afford it, can work around this, for example replacing milk with eggs. Then, good quality food is food that contains all nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, iron, and minerals. The last effort was to treat the accompanying diseases.

Well, that’s the characteristics of malnourished children to cause malnutrition which is important to understand. Hope it is useful, Mother!