More help needed for anorexic children
URGENT action is needed to identify children suffering from eating disorders, which have a death rate similar to childhood leukaemia, medical experts say.
Anorexia and bulimia are traditionally seen as problems of adolescence but new evidence suggests that they are now starting earlier in childhood.
Prompt treatment is essential to tackle what can develop into a long-term serious disorder, say researchers from the Institute of Child Health in London.
On average, children in the UK wait eight months to see a specialist, with up to half requiring hospital admission and one in seven having to be fed by a tube into the stomach.
About three in every 100,000 children under the age of 13 are affected, according to the first survey of early-onset eating disorders published in the 'British Journal of Psychiatry'.
The study identified 208 children aged from six to 13 with the diagnosis between March 2005 and May 2006.
The most common symptom was a determined refusal of food. Parents described their children as "fussy eaters" or "not aware of hunger".
Dasha Nicholls, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at University College Hospital, who led the study, said: "Typically the problem begins with increasingly rigid eating behaviour -- the child starts cutting out certain foods. Then, as it becomes more entrenched, you get arguments over food.
"It is difficult for parents to know whether to take it seriously because it is quite normal for children to express their feelings through food.
"The key point is preventing it getting established. We would like parents and professionals to take it more seriously.
"If you are told someone's child has leukaemia, you don't have a problem taking it seriously, even though it has a 90pc recovery rate." (© Independent News Service)