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When kids grow up too fast

From: Miami Herald


August 15, 2011

More children are experiencing puberty at younger ages, a condition known as precocious puberty. Doctors tell parents what signs to watch for.
Mood swings. Acne. Body odor. Armpit hair. Growth spurts. They are all hallmarks of puberty, the physical process that takes us from childhood to adulthood.
But what if puberty starts happening early? What if a 7-year-old girl needs to wear a bra? What if an 8-year-old boy grows out of his shoes two or three times a year?
The phenomenon, called precocious puberty, is becoming more common in girls and boys, doctors say. If it is not detected and treated, early puberty can cause children social stress and compromise their final height.
Consider Gabriela Tuaty. In second grade, she was the tallest girl in her class, wore a sports bra and started having mood swings. Her pediatrician noticed and ordered a bone X-ray of her left hand. It revealed her bones were four and a half years older than her actual age. She was experiencing precocious puberty.
“Basically everything was happening four and a half years too soon,” she recounted.
She saw a pediatric endocrinologist – a children’s doctor who specializes in the endocrine system that produces hormones. She started taking a monthly medication that slowed puberty and her bone growth. A few years later, she stopped the medicine; she got her period in sixth grade.
“Now I’m fine. I’m tall as everyone else – five seven. That was only because I was lucky enough to find it early enough,” said Gabriela, now a 17-year-old high school senior who likes to swim and tutor math.
Her physician was Dr. Samuel Freedman, a pediatric endocrinologist at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood. He said puberty is a normal process, but if it occurs much too early, it warrants evaluation. How to broach the sensitive subject?

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