Hypothyroidism in Children
Your child has been diagnosed with
hypothyroidism. This occurs when the
thyroid gland, one of the body’s endocrine
glands, does not make enough thyroid
hormone. Thyroid hormone affects your
child’s weight gain, controls body
temperature, helps control the heartbeat, and
is one of the controls of the body’s growth
and the brain’s development. This handout
will answer some questions you may have
about the condition and how it is treated.
Glossary of Terms
Gland – A special group of cells in
the body that sends out a hormone.
Hormone – A chemical messenger
sent out from a gland into the
bloodstream where it can carry its
message to other cells in the body.
Euthyroid – “Eu” means “normal.”
Euthyroid means the thyroid gland is
Hypothyroid – “Hypo” means “too
little, not enough.” Hypothyroid
means the thyroid gland is not
making enough thyroid hormone.
Hyperthyroid – “Hyper” means
“too much.” Hyperthyroid means
the thyroid gland is making more
thyroid hormone than the body
The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in
the center front of the neck. A healthy
thyroid sends out hormones, called
triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
When the thyroid gland gets a message from
the brain that the body needs these two
hormones, the thyroid gland sends them into
the bloodstream. The blood then carries
thyroid hormone everywhere in the body.
If the thyroid gland slows down or stops
making enough thyroid hormone, the
symptoms may include
Swelling in the front of the neck.
Intolerance to cold, feel cold all the
Feel tired or sleepy during the day.
Rough or brittle hair.
Mild weight gain due to puffiness in
face, hands, and feet
Hypothyroidism does not cause obesity.
Hypothyroidism is treated with a thyroid
hormone pill. The thyroid hormone pill
doctors often give is called Synthroid or
levothyroxine sodium. It is important to
take this pill at the same time every day as
part of your daily routine so you don’t forget
to take it. Each person or family should find
the right routine that works for them. Be
careful not to give this pill at the same time
with calcium or iron.
The child that is still growing will need
different doses of thyroid hormone as the
child gets bigger. The doctor may do a
blood test before or after clinic visits to
make sure the dose is correct. The doctor
may make changes in the dose of the pill
based on your child’s lab results.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism will go
away with treatment. It is still very
important to keep taking the thyroid pills.
Without the pills, the symptoms will return.
Signs of too little thyroid hormone
Feeling cold all the time
Decreased appetite in babies
Rough, coarse hair
Signs of too much thyroid hormone
Jittery, unable to sit still
Feel warm all the time
Insomnia, trouble sleeping
The doctor or nurse will check thyroid
function in several ways during clinic visits.
Palpation – the doctor will feel the
thyroid for any changes in size or if
one side is bigger than the other.
Reflexes – The doctor will tap the
knee, ankle, and elbow with a rubber
hammer to see if it twitches. If the
thyroid hormone is low (hypo), the
reflexes may be slow. If the thyroid
hormone is high (hyper), the reflexes
may be fast.
Heart rate – The heart rate may be
slower with hypothyroidism. With
hyperthyroidism, the heart rate may
Blood pressure – Blood pressure
may be low with hypothyroidism.
Blood pressure may be high with
Skin and hair – Skin and hair may
be dry and rough with
hyperthyroidism, skin and hair may
be moist and oily.
Height and weight – With
hypothyroidism your child may not
grow at the proper rate. With
hyperthyroidism, your child may
grow at the proper rate and may also
lose weight. Your child will be
weighed and measured during clinic
visits to see if your child’s body is
growing as it should.
After hours, this number is answered by the
paging operator. Ask for the
endocrinologist on call. Leave your name
and phone number with the area code. The
doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, call
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 8/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority.. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7141