Overweight children are becoming such a problem in Australia that hospitals are evolving separate drug dosing guidelines for them.
A Sydney hospital says it has to cope with an influx of children who weigh as much as adults.
The Sydney Children's Hospital has also introduced a specialised program to teach all new doctors how to deal with the complications of obesity, the first time such a course has been included in staff induction programs in the hospital's 44-year history.
The move comes less than six weeks after the Children's Hospital at Westmead became one of the first in the world to appoint a doctor dedicated to treating obese or overweight children after demand for weight management services increased fivefold in three years.
The hospital's assistant director of clinical operations, Jonny Taitz, said yesterday that children were putting on weight at an alarming rate. "It is changing the way we practise medicine because they are suffering from complications that we only ever saw in people who were 40. They will be the first generation in thousands of years to have shorter lifespans than our ancestors because of obesity," he said.
Drugs are usually administered on a milligram per kilogram basis, but children cannot be given adult doses of most drugs because their bodies metabolise drugs differently, reports Sydney Morning Herald.
Obese children also have higher body fat levels which affect how much of a drug is dispersed throughout the body and giving a child a dose based solely on weight can sometimes lead to them receiving more than an adult would, Dr Taitz said.
"When it comes to drugs like paracetamol or some antibiotics, an unsuspecting or less experienced doctor can overdose a child if the dose is purely on milligrams per kilogram," he said.