Loss of Appetite in Children

December 14, 2020
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Kids are interesting characters. One day their favorite snacks are bananas. The next day, they cry when you give them one because they don’t like them. So you take it away to find something else to give them, and they get upset because you took away the fruit. While scenarios like this are part and parcel of being a parent, all giggles aside, in some instances, you may become concerned if your child doesn’t want to eat — at all. What are some common causes of loss of appetite in children? Is there anything you can do to make them want to eat? And, when is it time to see a doctor?

7 Common Causes of Appetite Loss in Children

It’s normal for children’s appetite to fluctuate. Sometimes, they are always asking for snacks or asking when dinner is ready. Other days, they keep pushing away their plate. The most common causes for not wanting to eat include:

  1. Food sensitivities
  2. Not feeling well
  3. Constipation
  4. Congestion
  5. Certain medications — especially antibiotics
  6. Illness
  7. Depression

6 Tips to Increase Your Child’s Appetite

1. Buy Their Favorite Foods

When grocery shopping, buy things you know your child loves. Whether it’s baked macaroni and cheese, burritos, fruit kebabs, or monkey bread, make it a point to plan for meals your child usually gets happy about.

2. Set Regular Times to Eat

This includes both snacks and meals. Make sure they have three meals, and three snacks at regular intervals — but make sure the snacks aren’t too close to mealtimes. That said, let your child decide how much they want to eat. Do not force them.

3. Don’t Offer Them Alternative Options

It’s understandable to make them something else when they don’t want to eat what you prepared. But if you do so at every meal, they won’t have an incentive to eat what’s right in front of them. If they see that they may have to go to bed hungry, the dinner you serve may suddenly look a lot more appetizing to them.

4. Encourage Physical Activity

Kids love to play. Whether it’s running, jumping, dancing, swimming, or playing musical chairs, having them move around will eventually increase your child’s appetite. This is due to the high number of calories these activities burn. If your child is in a wheelchair, look for activities specifically designed for them.

5. Have Meals at the Dinner Table

Encourage the entire family to sit down together at mealtimes. It shows them it’s time for everybody to eat, and it promotes sensible eating habits. It also ensures regular family time and communication. Make it fun for them by letting them choose their plate and cup, their seat, and by listening to what they have to say.

6. Keep Distractions Away

It’s tempting to let your kids play with a tablet, watch TV, or bring their toys with them to the dinner table. If they have a security blanket or a stuffed animal they can’t live without, let them keep it next to them. But other types of distractions will take away their focus from their meal. Let them know that if they want to get back to the activity they were doing, they’ll have to eat first — and stick with the rule.

When to See a Doctor

Always err on the side of caution. Call your child’s pediatrician if, in addition to not wanting to eat, they experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Decrease in energy
  • Irritability
  • Frequent crying
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Signs of an allergic reaction — such as face swelling, skin rash, and/or shortness of breath

Even if your child is not experiencing any signs of illness or depression, talk to their doctor if they have refused to eat anything for several days. A healthcare professional can help you figure out whether the issue has to do with a medical condition or something that’s more easily fixable, such as an aversion to certain food textures.

Contact Care Options for Kids For Pediatric Home Health Care

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of skilled professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help.

Our home health care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you are considering pediatric home health care services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.