Which children are wasted?

A wasted child has lost weight with a weight for height below the 3rd centile Wasting can be diagnosed by clinically examining the child. These children have very little subcutaneous fat and muscle. Their arms and legs are particularly thin and they have loose skin and soft tissue around the upper arms and thighs. Wasting is an important sign and must always be taken seriously. It indicates a recent serious loss of weight. Wasting in children indicates either fairly recent onset of malnutrition or they have a serious illness such as malabsorption, malignancy or chronic infection (such as tuberculosis or HIV).

Wasting is an important sign of malnutrition.

Assessing weight, height and weight for height by the correct use of centile charts is discussed in Unit 3.

Measuring the mid upper arm circumference is a good screening test for wasting. These children will also have a low body mass index.

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