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Doctors warn of ‘precocious puberty’ condition and parents’ misuse of medicine

Since 2003, nearly 3,000 children have been brought to the National Children’s Hospital to receive treatment related to precocious puberty, according to Nguyen Ngoc Khanh of the hospital’s Department of Endocrinology - Metabolism - Genetics.

Khanh noted a considerable increase in the number of children who need treatment for precocious puberty in recent years. In previous years, there were only 80-100 children a year, but the figure is 500 in recent years. 

The youngest patient the hospital has received was a 14 month old boy. This was a case of precocious puberty with a cause (he had a brain tumor).

Another case was a 5 year old girl. Her parents brought her to the hospital for examination after seeing growth of her mammary glands. 

When puberty begins before age 8 in girls and before age 9 in boys, it is considered precocious puberty. 

According to Khanh, the signs of in girls are that they have their first period before age 8, develop mammary glands, or have other signs.

As for boys, the signs include changes in voice, penis size, the appearance of mustache or acne, and other signs. 

Parents find it difficult to know if their children have precocious puberty. Some parents are happy as their children are growing fast and are taller than others of the same age. They don’t realize that these are signs of precocious puberty.

According to Khanh, more girls have precocious puberty than boys (10 times higher). While most boys have causes (60-70 percent), for example, brain tumor or meningitis, most girls don’t have causes (80-90 percent).

Doctors have to consider children’s conditions, such as onset of puberty, current height and current bone age, to determine if children need medical intervention.

If necessary, children will have to use drugs injected once a month or once every three months to stop precocious puberty.

However, some parents are worried about their children’s situation and buy medicine themselves. Khanh warned against this, saying that children should only use medicine when necessary.

Scientists believe that the side effects of drugs are not serious and don’t affect the fertility of girls. However, it is necessary to be cautious when using any drug. 

Asked about the causes of precocious puberty, Khanh said there has been no research which affirms the reasons behind this. Scientists believe that some substances have effects on children’s puberty, such as PPA in plastics and DDT in pesticides.

“Until now, there has been no proof showing that children have precocious puberty because they eat this or that thing,” Khanh said.

Ngoc Trang

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