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Child Obesity: Is Your Child Overweight or Obese?

We've all heard the scary statistics about child obesity. Is your child at risk?


Updated August 07, 2014

Child obesity means increased health risks.

Child obesity means increased health risks.

Kevin Jordan / Getty Images

You may look at your kids and think, "He's strong and sturdy," or "She's still got a bit of baby fat." But check again; that baby fat could have big consequences for her health. Child obesity can leave kids at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and even depression.

Defining Child Obesity

At regular check-ups, your child's doctor should check his height and weight and calculate his body-mass index, or BMI (see an online calculator that helps you check against thresholds for child obesity).

  • A child (between the ages of 2 and 18) is considered obese if his BMI is at or above the 95th percentile for their age and sex, or if his BMI is 30 or above.
  • A child is considered overweight if her BMI is at or above the 85th percentile (but below the 95th percentile).


Because kids' growth patterns are different from adults, a child's BMI can't be directly compared to an adult's. Special BMI-for-age charts help doctors know which kids are at risk. So do growth patterns over time, and so does questions doctors may ask about diet and fitness, such as:


If the BMI, the lifestyle questions, and/or family medical history raise a red flag, the doctor may order follow-up lab tests, such as a lipid profile (which checks the level of cholesterol in the blood), and recommend lifestyle changes for the whole family or other treatments.


Expert Committee Recommendations on the Assessment, Prevention, and Treatment of Child and Adolescent Overweight and Obesity. American Medical Association, January 25, 2007.

About BMI for children and teens. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 22, 2007.

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