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Causes of Poor Appetite in Children and Tips for Improvement

Children’s poor appetite can be one of the most concerning issues for parents. There can be various reasons poor appetite in children, each requiring a different approach to address. In the following article, Thu Cúc TCI shares the causes and detailed solutions to this condition in children. If you’re facing a similar issue, read on, parents!

1. Recognizing Signs of Children’s Poor Appetite

Poor appetite refers to a decrease or complete loss of appetite. This condition often leads to reduced food intake, resulting in common problems such as lack of energy and essential nutrients necessary for growth.

Poor appetite in children can be identified through two main groups of signs:

– Refusal to eat/breastfeed : When offered food, children turn their heads away, play with food, spit it out, gag, and vomit while eating… All of these refusal behaviors prolong meal times beyond normal (over 30 minutes).

– Reduced eating/breastfeeding : Children eat/breastfeed less than normal or less than they did previously.

Recognizing Signs of Poor Appetite in Children

There are many reasons why children have a poor appetite.

2. Causes of Poor Appetite in Children

As mentioned above, children may have a poor appetite due to many reasons, such as physiological, psychological, pathological, and inappropriate nutrition-related reasons.

2.1. Poor Appetite in Children Due to Inappropriate Nutrition

– Early or late introduction of solid foods, such as children being old enough to eat rice but still being fed porridge.

– Inadequate intake of the four essential food groups.

– Selective eating habits, such as avoiding vegetables, meat, or fish and only consuming broth…

2.2. Poor Appetite Due to Pathological Reasons

– Children having infectious diseases: Poor appetite can result from acute infections like acute respiratory infections… or latent infections like early-stage tuberculosis… or superinfections like measles, mumps…

– Children having digestive problems: Common digestive issues that can cause poor appetite include gastrointestinal disorders, esophageal ulcers, gastric ulcers, intestinal ulcers, weak digestive enzyme activity, or decline…

– Children having endocrine disorders: Endocrine disorders such as Cushing’s syndrome, hyperthyroidism, adrenal cortex insufficiency… can cause poor appetite in children.

– Children having systemic diseases such as heart failure, liver failure, kidney failure, autoimmune diseases… also often have poor appetite.

– Children lacking essential nutrients: Deficiencies in essential nutrients such as Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, zinc, iron… are unavoidable causes of poor appetite in children.

– Children being poisoned: Children’s poor appetite can arise from jaundice, drug poisoning, glucocorticoid dependency, overuse of vitamins and minerals, pesticide poisoning, lead poisoning…

2.3. Poor Appetite Due to Psychological Reasons

– Changes in living environment and lifestyle habits: Children starting school or changing schools, moving homes…, generally, any change in living environment or lifestyle habits can lead to poor appetite.

– Family stress: Disharmonious relationships between family members can also be a cause of children’s poor appetite.

– Parental pressure to eat: Being pressured to eat can make children anxious and stressed, leading to reduced appetite.

Poor Appetite in Children Due to Psychological Reasons

Parents need to create a comfortable atmosphere during their child’s mealtime, avoiding pressuring the child.


2.4. Poor Appetite in Children Due to Physiological Reasons

Physiological poor appetite is often transient and may disappear on its own. This cause of poor appetite is diagnosed after excluding other reasons. The most common physiological issue causing poor appetite in children is teething.

Causes of Poor Appetite in Children

Teething can make children have a poor appetite and be fussy.

3. Basic Information on Improving Children’s Poor Appetite

Poor appetite in children due to various reasons needs to be addressed with different methods. Therefore, when signs of poor appetite as listed in section 1 of this article appear, parents should take their children to see a nutrition expert for diagnosis of the cause of poor appetite and appropriate treatment recommendations.

Usually, if:

– Poor appetite is due to inappropriate nutrition: The doctor will advise on a detailed diet suitable for the child’s nutritional needs to improve the condition. Some general dietary guidelines for parents include: Establishing a complete four-group nutrient intake; preparing food according to taste preferences; evenly distributing meal times throughout the day (meal intervals should not be too long or too short), and feeding children at predetermined times.

– Poor appetite is due to infections, digestive issues, endocrine disorders, systemic diseases…: To improve poor appetite, these conditions need to be treated or at least controlled thoroughly.

– Poor appetite is due to nutrient deficiencies: The child will be prescribed nutrient supplements by a nutritionist and advised on an appropriate dietary regimen to improve poor appetite.

– Poisoning: To improve poor appetite, children need to take antidotes orally or intravenously.

– Poor appetite is due to psychological reasons: Parents need to create a comfortable atmosphere at home, especially during meals. Increase interaction with children. Show concern for children without being overly indulgent. Encourage children to eat without pressure. When children experience changes in living environment or lifestyle habits, parents need to increase communication with children, create conditions for children to release mental anxiety, worry, and stress, etc.

Above are the signs, causes, and ways to improve children’s poor appetite. Therefore, when children refuse to eat/breastfeed and/or eat/breastfeed less, parents can consider poor appetite. Poor appetite can be due to inappropriate nutrition, pathological, psychological, or physiological reasons. To effectively improve poor appetite in children, parents need to consult with a nutritionist. Hopefully, with this information, parents can quickly help their children regain their appetite.


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