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Should You Give Your Kids Appetite Supplements?

Your child’s appetite will change as he grows. It’s normal for many children to stop eating foods they once loved and to go through phases where they eat almost everything and then almost nothing. You may be concerned he is not getting enough vitamins and nutrients. Are these supplements necessary?


1. Deworming Treatment

Some people – especially those of the older generation – may conclude that intestinal worms are the reason for a child’s poor appetite and recommend treatment with a deworming syrup that can be bought off the shelf.

But it is not advisable to give kids deworming syrup without a doctor’s assessment, said Dr Angelia Chua, a family physician and consultant at Yishun Polyclinic.

“Malnutrition, stomach ache, vomiting, diarrhoea and perennial itch are the common symptoms that the child might have if he has a parasitic infestation,” she said.

If the doctor confirms the infestation, he will prescribe medication in a syrup form, she said.

There are simple and more important steps that parents can take to prevent their children from getting intestinal worms, she added.

These include:

  • Maintaining proper hygiene at home and frequently washing the child’s hands with soap and water.
  • Monitoring what the child is touching or putting into his mouth.
  • Ensuring that the child wears shoes when he is outside the house, especially in muddy areas.
  • Making sure the child does not eat undercooked meat or unwashed fruit and vegetables.


2. Appetite Stimulants

Some parents believe that lysine, an essential amino acid that can be found in some multivitamins for kids, can help boost appetites.

However, there is insufficient evidence to show that it works as an appetite stimulant, said Ms Jenette Yee, a dietitian at the nutrition and dietetics department at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

“Besides, the responses may vary from child to child.”

Often, it is more important to address the underlying reasons for the lack of appetite before parents turn to supplements, she said.

The child could be snacking too much between meals, or simply be disinterested because he is being forced to finish his meals.


3. Multivitamins

Many parents give these to their children in the belief that the supplements will help them grow stronger. But multivitamins are generally unnecessary for a healthy child who is growing normally, said Dr Chua.

“Most kids should get their vitamins from a balanced, healthy diet that includes milk and dairy products, fruit and vegetables, as well as proteins like chicken, fish, meat and eggs, and whole grains.”

Many common food products are also fortified with vital nutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium and iron, she added.

Ms Yee agreed: “Children do not typically need large amounts of vitamins and minerals.”

A multivitamin may be helpful only if the child does not eat regularly, is extremely fussy about food or takes a restricted variety of foods due to, for instance, food allergies or chronic diseases that require lifelong dietary avoidance, she said.


By Joyce Teo, The Straits Times, November 3, 2015

Photo: 123rf.com

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