Is It Possible for a Child to Grow Too Much?

Updated on May 09, 2011
B.L. asks from Ojai, CA
20 answers

My younger son just turned 5 and he is 48" tall. That is over 100th percentile for his age. 48" is the average height of an 8-year-old. His brother is 8 and is 53" tall. My younger son was born above average in height (22") which was 95th percentile. He's continued to grow quickly, much faster than his brother, never falling below the 95th percentile. His brother fluctuates between 50th and 85th percentile. He's a head taller than every kid in his preschool class, and of course when he goes out everybody thinks he's older and wonders why he acts "immature".

My question is, is this abnormal? Anybody else have a child that is so big? I've heard of pituitary tumors that can cause overgrowth, but I thought they didn't kick in until puberty. My husbands family is on the tall side, but not basketball tall. I'm adopted and don't know my genetics. I'm 5'6" and my husband is 6'. We have our son's 5-year appointment next week, and I was wondering if I should bring it up to the doctor.

Thank you for your input!

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So What Happened?

Wow, thank you everybody for all the great information!! I really appreciate the input and reassurance.

We took our son into the pediatrician and he doesn't seem to think there is any issue. Apparently he has been on the same growth projectory for 3 years. It's just that with each year he gets higher and higher above that 97th percentile mark so it looks like he's growing even faster. The doctor just thinks he's going to be big, although he could be one of those kids who does most of his growing when he is young.

He also said if he had Marfan's Syndrome or other growth disorder there would be other symptoms besides just extra height (like extra long limbs and fingers). He doesn't have any other symptoms. So he's just a healthy, big kid!

Thanks everybody!

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answers from Houston on

My 8 year old is 54" tall, and my 2 year old is 37'' tall. I have always considered it healthy but unusual. My husband and I are not tall people, Im 5, 6'' he is 5,8''. The only child in my daughters class that is as tall as her is her friend whos parents are both over 6 ft.

I dont have any scientific input on how common it is, i just wanted to add that it cant be too uncommon if my kiddos are the same way.

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answers from Sacramento on

I wouldn't worry about it. My 5 year old is 46.5" tall and is only at the 90th percentile. There can be huge differences in size between percentiles or NOT MUCH DIFFERENCE AT ALL.

The issue with being mistaken for an older child is very real and frustrating. Luckily the older he gets the less of an issue it will be. My son has had the same issues (he was also an early talker so people REALLY couldn't understand why he wasn't better and sharing and sitting still etc.)

As a point of information, he can't be OVER the 100th percentile... that just doesn't actually make statistical sense... percentiles can't work like that.

Enjoy your little guy and don't worry about it unless the doctor says there's something to worry about.

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answers from Boston on

I know a boy whose father is 6"4" and he is also very tall. The only drawback is the fact that others think he is immature when he is just being a little boy. We also know a girl who is head and shoulders (not just tall but solidly built) above all the other little girls. Everyone thinks she wants to rough house because she is sturdy, but she is a girlie girl who likes dolls and is very sensitive. Give him lots of love. He will probably be very sensitive to others' feeling when he is grown because of his life experience.

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answers from San Francisco on

I've had the same worry, because my son is 17 and I swear he grew a foot in 6 months. He's 6'3" and I'm hoping he's done growing. That's tall enough. I'm 5'7" and my husband is 5'11". My dad was 6'2", though.

It's probably normal -- one boy I know is huge - both his parents are tall and sort of Amazonian people, so it was no surprise. He was always way bigger than his peers. He's not overweight, just a big person in all ways. So maybe there are big males in your background.

I, like you, would worry about the pituitary tumor, though, so I suggest you bring it up with the dr.

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answers from Redding on

It made me curious so I went and checked my sons baby book for his height at 5, and darn,,I skipped writing it down that year but he was 41 inches at 4 and 52 at 6...I know he was just about the tallest in Kindergarten and by 5th grade was a skinny thing and one of the smallest in his class. He grew later and was really tall by his senior year in HS. He did a lot of growing that last year in HS too because I had to hem his marching band pants in the beginning of the school year and they were way too short for him by May. He grew after HS and is now 6ft5. Boys growth spurts are different from girls too. So you might end up with a nice tall boy eventually. No problem with that in my mind. Its really nice when they are all grown up and that big tall kid hugs you tight!
BTW, he was 9lbs2oz and 21 1/2 inches at birth. And I am 5ft9, and the shortest in my whole family of 7. I have 2 brothers who are both 6ft 7,, so, we are tall!

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answers from San Diego on

I would not worry, i have a 5 year old little girl in my daycare and she is 45.2 inches, and at her health assement on Thursday her doctor was very pleased with her hight and weight. J.

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answers from St. Louis on

My son had a friend that was taller than me, 5'8, in the fifth grade. Granted he is now 7 ft something.

I am sure if it is an issue your doctor will point it out at your next appt since hight is kinda obvious, ya know?

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answers from San Diego on

My oldest has always stayed in the tall range of the charts. His doctor looks to make sure he's growing at a steady curve and that his weight to height ratio is in check. She doesn't look at the percentile. Last check up she said that his growth curve means he's going to be well over 6 feet tall. We do have tall people in both my husband's and my family so it is no surprise.
I'm sure it's fine, he's just going to be tall :)

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answers from Honolulu on

Who knows.
You Pediatrician will say they are tall.

My kids are tall too. Not 'as' tall as yours, but close.
My kids were born at 21" long
Currently, my 4 year old son is about 45" tall.
My Daughter is 8, and she is 53" tall. So that is the same as your other son.
Both my kids, are tall... and lanky. Not 'big' in girth.

Mind you, in my Daughter's Grade Level (3rd grade), MANY of the kids, 8 year old, ARE my daughter's height, OR taller. Her grade level, is FULL of tall kids. My Daughter's friends, are taller than her. For example.

My kids have always been in the upper percentiles too.
Our Ped, has never said it is problem.
Just this past year, they have grown.

My Husband's family, are very tall people. My Husband is 6'1", and he is the shortest, sibling in his family. The others are all taller than him.

My kids are tall, for their ages.
My 4 year old son, always gets mistaken for being older too.
I don't care about that.
He is taller, than many 1st graders.

Your younger son, at 48" tall... well that is tall.
You can always ask your Ped, about it.
But I doubt that Pituitary Tumors, are common.
Growth... is a very complex thing.
There are Pediatric Endocrinologists, too, and it is a very complicated field.

You cannot do anything about making them taller or shorter.

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answers from Norfolk on

Some kids just shoot up earlier than others.
He might reach his full height early then stop and some of his class mates will catch up to him.
My son has always been in the 99th percentile for height and occasionally he's been off the chart.
I'm 5'5" and my husband's 6'1". Our pediatrician says our son could reach 6'4", our son is perfectly healthy and we have a few tall relatives on both sides of the family.
Right now he's 12 1/2, in 6th grade (he's the tallest in his class) and he's about 5'6" tall. He's a foot taller than some of his best friends. People are always mistaking him for a 14 or 15 yr old.
Try to remind people how old he really is and for his age, he's acting appropriately.
You can mention it to the Dr and he should be able to assure you it's normal.

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answers from Los Angeles on

According to this chart, 43" is the average for a 5 year old, so he should be about 5" taller than other kids his age. Which is definitely a lot taller, but from what I've been told, as long as they stay roughly along the curve (e.g. 50th percentile, 90th percentile) that they start out on, there isn't need for concern. My 2-1/2 year old daughter has been around the 90th-100th percentile for height and 50th for weight, and she's been that way since she was born. Also, look back at his height when he turned two. I read in a book written by a pediatrician (Toddler 411) that you can double their height at age 2 to get a rough estimate of their height as an adult (confirmed by my pediatrician).

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answers from Reno on

Hi! If your pediatrician is not worried, and he's growing okay without any joint or tissue damage, just hug your tall kiddo :) My son was 24 inches when he was born. He's now 8 and is still more than ahead taller than all his friends his age. When we go places that are for kids 12 and under, we have to carry his student ID to prove he's only 8 and can still attend the event. My brother is 6'5" and it was much the same way (he also had a beard and mustache in the 7th grade and was 6'1"!).

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answers from Chicago on

I wouldn't worry. Genetics play a huge role. My 2.5 year old is 41 inches tall and his twin brother isn't far behind at 38 inches. If there was reason to worry the doctor will say something next week. You're just going to have a tall son! We have the same issues with maturity. When my boys were walking around at an event (just past age 1), some ladies commented about how wobbly they were walking. When we informed them that our boys had just turned one, they both exclaimed about how tall they were and how much older they look. They stand next to four year olds and are in the same height range.

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answers from Spokane on

I wouldn't worry too much although definitely bring it up with your doc so (s)he can address any concerns or questions you have. My sisters son is HUGE. He just turned 5 a couple of weeks ago and he's as big as my 7 1/2 yo son. He's always been big. We had planned on passing down clothing to him but can't since he's so close in size to C. My sister is 5'9" and a beanpole. The boys father was 6'4" and over 200 lbs. So the genetics are there but it was still a shock when we realized he was going to be so big. In fact, if we'd thought about it, we had gotten a clue that he was going to be big before he was even born. He was so big that it threw off the measurements for the ultrasound techs so the doc actually thought my sis was further along then she was. He just figured she'd messed up her dates and he actually wanted to induce her! Thankfully she didn't let him talk her into and was adamant about her dates or J would have been several weeks too early.

Another friend of mine also has really big boys. They're all close in age to most of my kids, just slightly younger than each by a few months. She's about 5'6" but her husband is African and huge. Well over 6' and 200+ lbs. Her youngest is only 2 and he's almost as big as my 5 yo although, to be fair, she's a bit of a shrimp but she's not super tiny. My 6 yo borrowed some clothes from the 4 yo after she had an accident and they hung on (but fit him quite snugly).

I think that it's just genetics. People are just growing bigger. Over the last hundred years, the average height has shifted by a few inches which is a big change. I'd rather have a large child vs. a smaller one, even if the large one is often mistaken for being older than they are. For instance, I have a friend with a first grade son that is as small if not small than most kindergarteners. Most people think he's a preschooler! And then of course there's my little shrimp that's a pain in the butt to find clothing that actually fits her properly. I finally found a good fitting pair of jeans only because they were made small! There were a size 5 so had the length she needed (her legs just shot out from her latest growth spurt) but the rest of her is so skinny that most 5's just fell right off. However, since these were made out of stretch denim, they were made small on purpose. I still had to pull in the waste tabs and they weren't tight on her legs or butt by any means. In fact, her grandmother loves sewing her things and as soon as her growth spurt was over, grandma came to measure her. The only measurement that had changed was her legs. Most of the measurements haven't changed in a couple of years! But the doc says she's perfectly healthy and that she may even surprise us when she reaches puberty. Who knows?

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answers from Seattle on

My uncle (now 60) was 6 feet in the 6th grade and my grandparents DID have his pituitary checked. He was fine - topped out at 6'3" and has always been healthy. My 3-year-old is 42" and it looks like he's following in his great-uncles footsteps!

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi B.,

My rule of thumb is, if it worries you, ask the doctor. The best case scenario is that everything is normal, and you will have piece of mind. You're pretty average in height for a woman, but since you don't know your family genetics, it's difficult to make any inferences as to whether you're average, tall, or short for your family. You might consider asking for release of specific medical information about your birth parents. This can be valuable for your overall health maintenance, anyway. (You should know if genetic diseases, heart disease, cancer, etc. runs in your family, since this information can help you guide important lifestyle decisions.)

Since your husband is on the tall side, in all likelihood, your son will just be nice and tall, in which case you might want to encourage basketball or epee fencing as sports. ;-) Kids grow differently. Some will grow quickly when very young and then slow down in the later elementary years, others may not spurt until adolescence. Ask your husband's parents and your adoptive parents what your growth patterns were like, and you might be able to develop a sense of whether or not your son is following similar patterns. Also, look back at your son's growth records and see if he's been growing at a constant rate (X inches/year). If this growth trend is very sudden, the implications might be different than if he's always grown at faster than normal rate.

Abnormal growth caused by a disease process in children before puberty is actually pretty rare (true gigantism has been reported in < 100 people to date). Most cases are attributed to either benign pituitary or hypothalamic tumors, but can be also caused by a number of other underlying genetic abnormalities. If your pediatrician is concerned, he'll suggest some noninvasive tests to rule out possibilities. He will probably start with growth hormone, IgF1, and possibly IgFBP3 measurements ( simple blood tests, best down as early in the morning as possilbe), followed by an MRI, with and without contrast if the GH tests are abnormal. Depending on results, other tests may be requested, including genetic testing. One thing you should ask about having investigated, whether or not the growth tests come back normal, is Marfan's Syndrome. People who are unusually tall are at a greater risk for Marfan's, which is a defect in the production of certain types of elastic proteins in tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissue. It's rarely dangerous, although certain types of cardiovascular defects can arise with increasing height and age, so it's important to be aware of these and be monitored regularly.

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answers from Kansas City on

My 6 yr old daughter is 52in and almost 80lbs, her Dr. says she is fine as long as her height and weight grow on the same pace and she does not shoot up weight wise and not height wise. She has always been in the 95%on both. She was 8.4 lbs & 20.4in at birth and has continued to grow at a steady pace all her life I wish she would slow down. Im 5'6 and her dad is 5'11 so we are not that tall, neither side of grandparents are extremly tall, we are not sure where she gets it. I think your son is just a fast grower same as my daughter.

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answers from Rochester on

I'm 5'6" and my husband is 6'2". My mom's side is pretty tall. My oldest son is usually mistaken for an elementary school kid, but he's barely 4 1/2. Kids try to play with him on the playground (and he loves it) but they think he acts really odd--yeah, because he's 4! :) He was in a booster seat right before he turned 3 because he was much too tall for a carseat. His pediatrician just predicts that he'll be a linebacker, nothing to worry about. He's always been 90th to 95th percentile for height and weight, all bone and muscle. I'm not sure how tall he is now, but he wears boys size 6-8, depending on the clothes and brand. My youngest boy was 10 pounds and 22 inches at birth, and at almost 2 months is at least 16 pounds on our bathroom scale. We just make big boys.

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answers from Dallas on

I have a 4 year old (just turned in April) and he's 44 inches and 47.5 lbs. 100% and 95% in height/weight. Doc just said he's healthy :)

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I think what they look at is his overall rate of growth.
Yes--there is an issue if they have a huge spurt one year...then they don't get it during adolescence and those are the short guys you see out & about.
My 8 yo had two pretty good "spurt years" -- he grew 4 inches one year and 3.5 the next. The pediatrician said 2" per year is average.

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