Symptoms Of Malnutrition In Babies: Causes & How To Treat It?

Malnutrition is a serious global challenge even today because it is a major contributing factor for many diseases especially among babies and children under the age of 5 years. Malnutrition is a condition that develops when the body does not get enough amounts of protein, calories and other nutrients that are essential to maintain health and growth of a person.

Improper or insufficient food intake, inadequate absorption, starvation etc are few known factor to cause malnutrition. Large numbers of children suffer from this condition in developing countries. Poverty, drought, famine, overpopulation in developing countries can lead to scarcity of food.

It may ultimately lead to malnourishment among children living in these countries. The condition can be treated by supplementing adequate amount of dietary calories, vitamins, and proteins.

Signs And Symptoms Of Malnutrition In Babies

Malnutrition can develop in infants as well as in toddlers. It can lead to marasmus and kwashiorkor. Infants present with following symptoms:

  • The most common manifestation is failure to gain weight.
  • Loss of weight and emaciation.
  • Loss of subcutaneous fat causes skin to lose its turgor.
  • Skin wrinkles all over the body.
  • When fat pad in cheeks disappear, the infant appears like a withered old man.
  • Abdomen may be distended or sunken. Outlines of intestine are visible on the abdomen because there is no fat barrier left.
  • Muscles become flabby and relaxed.
  • Initially the infant is fretful but later on become listless.
  • Stools may contain mucus.
  • Infant appear pale due to anemia.
  • Frequent infections such as diarrhea, cough, and urinary tract infection.
  • Frequent oral thrush is common in malnourished infant.
  • Pressure ulcers on skin areas of bony prominences.
  • Edema on feet and depending parts of the body.

Malnutrition symptoms in babies and toddlers

Malnutrition in children may be a continuation of infancy state or may stem later on when the child grows up.

The symptoms are:

  • The child is underweight and stunted as compared to his peers.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Frequent diarrhea alternating with constipation. Too much mucus passed in stool.
  • The child appears emaciated with loss of fat under the skin.
  • Extreme fatigue and lassitude.
  • Loss of hair or hair become brittle and the color of hair turn brown.
  • Lax and weak muscle tone leads to fatigue posture of the child. His shoulder appears rounded with flat chest and protuberant abdomen. Tummy appears swollen because of enlarged liver.
  • Inattentive and poor performance in school.
  • Swelling in feet.
  • Frequent gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infection.
  • Skin is thin and wrinkled.
  • Bleeding gums and delayed dentition.

What Causes Malnutrition In Babies?

Malnutrition in children is caused due to diet that is not sufficient in providing energy, protein, vitamins and other important nutrients. Lack of these nutrients in diet can occur if there is scarcity of food source. There are several causes of scarcity and among them poverty, environmental disasters such as drought and famine are prominent.

Some children may suffer from malnutrition because of inability to absorb the nutrients due to chronic gastrointestinal infection leading to frequent diarrhea and vomiting. Poor feeding habits in infants and children can also lead to malnutrition especially in children suffering from certain congenital structural problems such as cleft palate, diseases of heart valve, dilated colon, hypothyroidism etc.

How To Treat Malnutrition In Babies?

Malnutrition in babies can be cured by providing adequate amount of nutritious food. At the same time the underlying disease or condition that may be the causative factor should be addressed effectively. Initially feeding should be low in quantity and in calories because sudden increase in dietary intake can cause severe digestive problems such as diarrhea and vomiting.

Gradually protein and carbohydrate containing food are added. Once the baby is able to digest them, fat contents are subsequently added. Some children who are severely marasmic and cannot eat by themselves need tube feeding. A tube is passed through nose which reaches in the stomach. Food made in liquid form is passed through this tube at particular interval. Once the child regains strength, tube is removed and the child is fed by mouth.