THURSDAY, Sept. 29, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Picky eating is normal in children, but a pediatric feeding disorder is a much more serious problem that can affect a child's physical and mental development, an expert says.
It's important to differentiate between the two, advises Peter Girolami, clinical director of the Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.
A picky eater may reject certain foods but still has a nourishing diet. Children with a pediatric feeding disorder may consume only three to four types of foods and reject entire food groups, which means they don't get enough calories and nutrients for healthy growth and development.
Some children with pediatric feeding disorders have aversions to certain textures and colors, while other children have difficulty self-feeding because of a medical, psychological or developmental problem.
Research suggests that up to 10 percent of infants and children have a pediatric feeding disorder.
Girolami, writing in an institute news release, said common symptoms of a pediatric feeding disorder include:
- A sudden change in eating habits that lasts longer than 30 days.
- Choking/coughing during meals.
- Unexplained fatigue and loss of energy.
- Disruptive behavior during meals.
- Delayed development of skills needed to self-feed or consume higher textures.
Early diagnosis and treatment of pediatric feeding disorders is crucial because the longer the disorder goes untreated, the more complex it can become. In extreme cases, some children require feeding tubes.
The Los Altos Feeding Clinic has more about pediatric feeding disorders.