Social and economic factors: Poverty that results in low food availability, overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions and improper child care is a frequent cause. A decline in the practice and duration of breastfeeding, combined with inadequate weaning practices are the important causes of kwashiorkor. Biological factors: Infectious diseases are majorly contributing and precipitating factors of kwashiorkor. Diarrhoeal diseases, measles and respiratory and other infections results in negative protein and energy balance. This is due to anorexia, decreased absorption and increased catabolic processes. Environmental Factors: Overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions lead to frequent infections like diarrhea. Agricultural patterns, droughts, floods, earthquakes, wars and forced migrations lead to cyclic, sudden or prolonged food scarcities. Post-harvest losses of food can occur due to bad storage conditions and inadequate food distribution.
Ø Conditions that interfere with protein absorption such as cystic fibrosis Ø Dietary changes for management of milk allergies in infants and children Ø Diets that is low in protein such as a vegan diet Ø Drought or famine Ø Infections that interfere with protein absorption Ø Limited food supply, as may occur during political unrest Ø Parasites such as intestinal worms Ø Poor education about proper nutrition Ø Prolonged hospitalization or residence in a nursing home
Ø Low birth weight in spite of Edema (swelling with fluid, especially in the ankles and feet) showing growth failure. Ø Mental changes like apathy and irritability are common. Ø Bloated stomach with ascites (a build-up of fluid in the abdominal cavity). Ø Dry, brittle hair, hair loss and loss of pigment in hair. Ø Dermatitis— dry, peeling skin, scaly patches or red patches. Ø Enlarged liver, a symptom of fatty liver disease. Ø Depleted muscle mass but retained subcutaneous fat (under the skin). Ø Dehydration. Ø Loss of appetite anorexia. Ø Irritability and fatigue. Ø Stunted growth in children.
Kwashiorkor can be diagnosed by physically examining the child and observing its telltale physical signs. Ask about the child’s diet and history of illnesses or infections. Measuring the child’s weight-to-height ratio and height-to-age and score them according to various charts. The weight-to-height score tells how severe the child’s condition is. The height-to-age score tells how much the child's growth has been affected by malnutrition.
Ø Periodic surveillance. Ø Treatment of infections and diarrhea. Ø Development of programs for early rehydration of children with diarrhea. Ø Development of supplementary feeding programs during epidemics. Ø Deworming of heavily infested children.
Ø Education of the disease: Some populations simply aren’t informed of basic nutrition, the benefits of breastfeeding or the nutritional needs of children and mothers. Ø Nutritional support: The WHO and other organizations are working to reintroduce native crops that offer sources of protein and micronutrients in affected countries. They have developed nutritional formulas made from locally available resources, such as skim milk and peanuts. Ø Disease control: Widespread diseases and infections weaken the immunity of high-risk populations. Diseased bodies require more nutritional resources and could shed calories through chronic diarrhea. Diseases also deplete a community’s material resources, breeding poverty. Improved sanitation and immunizations can go a long way toward preventing malnutrition.
Do's & Don’t's
|Provide therapeutic feeding
|Avoid high-fat diets
|Offer protein-rich foods
|Don't rely solely on carbohydrates
|Ensure sufficient calorie intake
|Avoid excessive fluid intake
|Administer vitamin and mineral supplements
|Don't give foods high in refined sugars
|Monitor and treat infections promptly
|Avoid overfeeding abruptly
|Use fortified foods or therapeutic formulas
|Don't force-feed or overstuff the child
|Gradually reintroduce a balanced diet
|Avoid foods that may exacerbate symptoms
|Provide clean water and proper hygiene
|Don't neglect regular medical check-ups
|Encourage breastfeeding or appropriate alternative
|Avoid neglecting the child's emotional needs
If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Kwashiorkor, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Nutritionist.