At first glance you might not think childhood obesity has much to do with pediatric critical care, but it does. There are several well-known health risks to an obese child. Many of these, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea, were once quite uncommon in children. For example, two decades ago I never saw a child with type 2 diabetes — now I see several each year. Some authorities say one in three children are overweight. Many of us think the ongoing epidemic growth in childhood asthma is partly driven by rising obesity.
For children, what is obesity? After all, children grow and put on weight as they grow. To determine this we use the same measurements as for adults — the body mass index, or BMI. The BMI is your child’s weight in kilograms divided by her height in meters squared (i.e., multiplied times itself). Here is a site that gives easy conversion of pounds and inches to these metric values. For example, a child who is 1.5 meters tall and weighs 50 kg has a BMI of 22 (50/1.5 x 1.5). Here is an even easier way to do it, a BMI calculator. It also has a chart that tells you if your child is at a good weight for age, overweight (BMI at 85th to 94th percentile for age), or obese (BMI greater than the 95th percentile for age).
Why does this matter? Can’t an overweight or obese child just lose the weight later by exercising more and eating less? The answer is that it becomes harder and harder to lose the weight once the child gets to adolescence and beyond. Ingrained lifestyle habits are hard to break. Besides, obesity has heath risks for children now, both physical and psychological. You can read more about them at a very useful National Library of Medicine site here, which also tells you what you can do about it.