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My daughter has excess body hair. Help!

My 4.8-year-old daughter has excess body hair, especially on her back and upper portion of the hand. Please advise.
— Shiny Thomas, Trivandrum
Hirsutism or excessive body hair in children could be due to several reasons. Consult your paediatrician, she will decide if the hair growth is appropriate for her age. If not, she will rule out few common causes such as familial/hereditary reasons, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), precocious puberty, adrenal hyperplasia, Cushing’s syndrome, etc. The commonest causes of hirsutism in children are familial and PCOS. Most cases require conservative treatment. In pathological cases, your daughter may have to undergo blood tests, ultrasound scan etc. If the cause is familial or non-pathological, there may be no cause for worry. As she enters adolescence, you could consider laser hair reduction.

My in-laws and other relatives keep iterating that my nine-month-old needs to look ‘healthier’. I think what they mean is he should be plumper. Do infants need to be chubby to be healthy?
— Vineeta Shourya, Delhi
This is a myth. Chubby infants are not necessarily healthy. On the contrary, a lean child might be healthier. Paediatricians usually rely on WHO/IAP weight-height ratio charts and if your son’s weight and height fall around the 50th centile, it’s good. More than the weight, paediatricians are concerned about micronutrient deficiencies in children. Children who follow high sugar diets including cookies, candies, deep fried foods, and beverages tend to put on weight but are deficient in micronutrients.

It is important to provide your child a balanced diet after she completes six months of age, with meals that include cereals, lentils, pulses, vegetables, fruits, meat, dairy and nuts. Every meal should contain small amounts of these nutrients.

However, it’s important to note that infants who are exclusively breast fed for the first six months/one year are healthier compared to babies fed formula milk. Most women tend to think breastmilk isn’t sufficient. They are wrong. Breastmilk fulfils all nutritional needs of infants. It’s best to avoid formula and other weaning food until completion of six months unless your paediatrician specifically recommends it.

My eight-year-old son is suffering from acute tonsillitis. Can I give him citrus fruits? I have grown
up hearing that lemons and oranges should be avoided during a cold infection.
— Minisha Chakraborty, Pune
Citrus fruits are rich in Vitamin C and folate — both of which boost immunity. In most illnesses, there is rapid utilisation of vitamin C and increased demand for it. There is however a small paediatric population allergic to citrus fruits whose acidic content can also trigger throat irritation in these children. Since benefits outweigh risks, you can give citrus fruits to your son, provided he has no previous history of allergies or worsening of respiratory symptoms after consuming these fruits.

(Dr. Amritha Rao Kordcal is consultant paediatrician at Shishu Clinic, Aaditya Hospital and Brindavan Hospital, Mysuru)

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