The term appetite is used to refer to the desire to eat, there is a great variety of things that can influence this desire, both to increase it and, above all, what most worries parents that occurs in their children, to decrease it. A decreased appetite often affects a child's food intake, since in general, and if their wishes are respected, the child will only eat when they are 'hungry'. What can we do in these cases? Is it recommended to use appetite stimulants for children?
On occasions, when the situation is extreme and the child's nutritional status may be affected, the pediatrician may prescribe appetite stimulants, which are basically medicines whose function is to increase the desire to eat. There are specific medical therapies to stimulate the appetite, although there are few compounds whose use is authorized in childhood.
- Megestrol acetate or megestrol is a synthetic chemical compound that reproduces the function of progesterone in the body, and has been used in children in very extreme situations of anorexia or cachexia, in which its potential benefit in the child outweighs the risk posed by its side effects, These include an increased risk of blood clots or thrombi, risk of fluid retention, and others of even greater severity.
- Cyproheptadine (or pizotifen, with a very similar profile to this compound), which is a serotonin antagonist antihistamine. This medicine, whose function is not specifically to increase appetite, is used for this purpose in childhood. Due to its antihistamine potential, this chemical compound is widely used in episodes of allergy and uticaria, although it simply helps to cope with symptoms, does not serve as a treatment or accelerate recovery. Also, due to its ability to combat migraines, it is also used as a treatment for different types of headaches and, being a serotonin antagonist, it tends to produce a sedative effect, in addition to stimulating appetite.
Although it will be the pediatrician who determines the need to resort to this drug and, as they say in the Mexican journal Mediagraphic.com in their study Notions on appetite philosophy, "the appetite stimulant should be chosen depending on the patient."
Its side effects are also something to consider: dryness in the nose, mouth and throat area, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, muscle weakness and, above all, agitation and nervousness. Additionally, some more serious side effects may appear to a lesser extent.
Generally, the problem with using appetite stimulants is that while they may work for as long as they are used, when we stop using them, and if the initial problem causing the lack of appetite has not been corrected, we will return to the starting box, and the frustration of meeting a little one who, once again, shows little or no interest in food.
For example, if the child has lost his appetite due to anemia (lack of iron), the problem of lack of interest in food will not be solved until the deposits of this mineral are recovered, and, most likely, by directing our efforts towards a diet rich in iron, we would correct the problem without resorting to the use of artificial appetite stimulants.
In my opinion, artificial appetite stimulants should never be the first choice as a solution to a loss of appetite problem, but when all other options have been tried without success, it will be the pediatrician who will assess the need to prescribe them. Additionally, the lack of some micronutrients can have effects on appetite.
In addition to affecting the immune system, and increasing weakness in nails and hair, zinc deficiency can cause loss of appetite and, according to studies on the subject, a supplement of this mineral will increase appetite in this specific situation.
Vitamin B1, essential for growth and development in childhood, can lead to loss of weight and appetite when it is lacking in the diet. Again, replenishing the stores of this vitamin will have a beneficial effect on the child's appetite.
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Some studies suggest that including oily fish, a source of these essential fatty acids, in the child's diet may have a positive effect by increasing the child's interest in food.
However, and although the supplementation of these micronutrients can be done successfully through the diet, we must not forget that it is advisable to consult the pediatrician if we want to give the child vitamin supplements.
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