6 January: Q&A with Dr Steven Conway

I took my 8 year old son to our GP as he is constantly being teased at school because he is overweight. I think that our family eats a good, varied diet but both my husband and I are quite large, so it just seems to run in our family. We have been referred to a paediatrician and we are wondering whether he will have to undergo any tests and what course of action is likely.

Dr Steven Conway, Consultant Paediatrician:

We know that weight problems in childhood can cause health problems in later life. I am sure also that your son will feel better, is likely to have increased self esteem, and will be happy when the teasing stops, if he can achieve a better weight.

It is very unusual for a weight problem to be caused by an underlying illness although of course this can occur, for example if the thyroid gland is underactive. The most likely course of events is that the hospital paediatrician will talk to you and your son to define the problem in more detail.

If there is nothing to suggest any other health problem you will probably be given advice on decreasing calorie intake by a paediatric dietician, and advice on increasing exercise by the doctor and/or a physiotherapist.

The aim would not necessarily be to lose weight immediately but just to gain weight at a slower rate so that over a period of time your son’s weight comes into line with what is recommended for his age and height.

Whether any investigations would be done at a later stage would depend on how he progresses and whether any new symptoms or clinical signs arise. It is probable that no tests will be done at the first visit.

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