Monday, May 07, 2001

Hitting the heights

At his annual pediatric visit last month, my son approached a major milestone: He's brushing the bottom of the height and weight charts. For a boy who's been cruising along well beneath the lowest percentile all his life, this is big news. At age eight, he's thrillingly close now to being in that lowest percentile. Whoo-hoo, maybe next year he'll only be smaller than 99% of his peers, instead of 100%! We may have to have a party.

My daughter goes for her 11-year-old exam this week, and she's on the opposite end of the spectrum. I expect we'll find that her height exceeds five feet; her height certainly exceeds mine, which is only 4' 10". I'll be interested to see where that puts her on the growth chart, and if her height and weight are average or above.

Getting accurate measurements for our records and our amusement has always been one of the nicer things about these pediatric visits (as opposed to, say, shots). But now I read that it may all be an illusion. According to a recent report on the Intelihealth Web site, doctors aren't all that good at measuring children, and may in fact miss diagnosing a problem due to these mismeasurements.

The conclusion seems reasonable enough, mentioning kids with high hairdos and big sneakers and the wiggles and measuring devices with floppy arms as impediments to proper measurement. Goodness knows it's not easy to get my son to stand up straight and still, and my daughter's been known to add a bit of tiptoe height if no one's watching.

Then again, the study in question was sponsored by a company that manufactures growth hormones, and we imagine they're not too happy about kids looking taller than they are. How frustrating it must be to think that children are looking average when they’re really not! When they need a shot of growth hormone to be average, darn it! They’d love my son. They’d throw him that party for making 1%. Then they’d offer some of their fine pharmaceuticals and suggest he go for 20% ... 60% ... to the moon!

It’s kind of like Jenny Craig commissioning a study that says doctor’s scales weigh people too light. When in fact, we know that doctor’s scales are seriously, seriously off in terms of making people appear far heavier than they are. Who will commission that study for me? Give me conclusive proof that the weight you see at the doctor’s office is always 20 pounds more than your actual total, and I’ll throw a party for myself.

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