The thyroid is a small gland located in your child’s neck, just below the voice box, or larynx. The thyroid gland makes and releases thyroid hormones, chemical messengers which are essential for the body to function normally. Thyroid hormones play a role in regulating your child’s metabolism, energy level, heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. Thyroid hormones are especially important for brain development in the first 2-3 years of life and normal growth of young children.
The most common thyroid disorders observed in children are hypothyroidism (when the thyroid gland produces too little hormone) and hyperthyroidism (when the thyroid gland produces too much hormone). Thyroid disorders are diagnosed with the help of a complete medical history, physical examination, and blood testing. In the United States, newborns undergo mandatory screening for hypothyroidism shortly after birth, for it can have devastating consequences in infants if untreated. The treatment for thyroid disorders in children may consist of thyroid hormone replacement, anti-thyroid medications, or, in some cases, surgery.