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More than 1 in 20 U.S. children have dizziness and balance problems

More than 1 in 20 (nearly 3.3 million) children between the ages of 3 and 17 have a dizziness or balance problem, according to an analysis of the first large-scale, nationally representative survey of these problems in U.S. children. Prevalence increases with age, with 7.5 percent of children ages 15-17 and 6.0 percent of children ages 12-14 having any dizziness or balance problem, compared with 3.6 percent of children ages 6-8 and 4.1 percent of children ages 3-5. The research was led by investigators at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers found that girls have a higher prevalence of dizziness and balance problems compared to boys, 5.7 percent and 5.0 percent, respectively. In addition, non-Hispanic white children have an increased prevalence of dizziness and balance problems (6.1 percent) compared with Hispanic (4.6 percent) and non-Hispanic black (4.3 percent) children. The findings were published online in The Journal of Pediatrics.

“These findings suggest that dizziness and balance problems are fairly common among children, and parents and providers should be aware of the impact these problems can have on our children,” said James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D, director of the NIDCD and a pediatrician. “Parents who notice dizziness and balance problems in their children should consult a health care provider to rule out a serious underlying condition.”

Previous estimates of dizziness and balance problems in children have ranged from 5 to 18 percent and have been based on limited, foreign, population-based studies. To better understand the prevalence of these problems among U.S. children, a team led by researchers from the epidemiology and statistics program at the NIDCD analyzed data from the Child Balance Supplement to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

The NHIS is an annual survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey uses personal household interviews to gather information about a range of health topics. The Child Balance Supplement was included in 2012 and was the first large-scale supplement added to the NHIS survey to assess dizziness and balance problems among children. The NIDCD provided funding for the 2012 Child Balance Supplement.

The researchers analyzed data on nearly 11,000 children, ages 3 to 17, based on parents’ responses to the survey. Parents were asked if in the past year, their children had been bothered by symptoms of dizziness or balance problems such as vertigo, poor balance/unsteadiness when standing up, clumsiness/poor coordination, frequent falls, fainting or light-headedness, or other dizziness and balance symptoms.