Previous foreign studies have estimated that between 5 and 18 percent of children have dizziness and balance problems. A new study backed by the National Institutes of Health finds American kids are no strangers to these difficulties. Nearly 3.3 million children between the ages of 3 and 17 — more than one in every 20 kids — report dizziness or balance problems.

A research team, which drew its members from government offices and the halls of academia, worked to figure out who these children are, and what put them at risk.

Basing their research on a 2012 national survey, the team looked at data from 10,954 children between the ages of 3 and 17. Parents had reported whether their children suffered from clumsiness or poor coordination, poor balance, unsteadiness when standing-up or walking, vertigo (motion sensation), light-headedness, fainting, or related problems. Following data analysis, the researchers concluded such problems are fairly common in the United States.

Underlying Conditions

Girls are more likely to suffer dizziness and balance problems compared to boys; 5.7 percent versus 5 percent, the researchers say. White kids were also more likely to report problems, 6.1 percent, compared to Hispanic children, 4.6 percent, or black kids, 4.3 percent.

As children grow older, prevalence increases, the analysis reveals. While 4.1 percent of youngsters between 3 and 5 have these problems, nearly double, 7.5 percent, the proportion of older teens, ages 15 through 17, suffer the same. And the percentages rise through the years.

A third of all parents reported seeing a healthcare professional when encountering this problem in their children, though nearly three quarters of those who rated the problem as moderate or big did so. Only about a third, though, received a diagnosis for the underlying condition.

Various doctors informed parents their kids' dizziness or balance difficulties were caused by a variety of issues: Neurological problems, ear infections, head or neck injuries or concussions, a developmental disorder, genetic causes, metabolic problems, drugs or prescription medications, headaches or migraines, malformation of the ear, and vision problems.

Difficulty hearing ranked as the primary risk factor for dizziness, according to the research team's calculations. Children who complained of hearing problems were two times more likely to also suffer dizziness or balance problems compared to kids with normal hearing.

Other risk factors included: Stuttering or stammering, anemia during the last year, certain developmental delays or impairments, and a history of seizures. Some of the risk factors were gender-specific: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), and stuttering were linked to dizziness and balance problems in boys. Anemia, hearing difficulties, and respiratory allergies were more prevalent in girls.

“Parents who notice dizziness and balance problems in their children should consult a health care provider to rule out a serious underlying condition,” said Dr. James F. Battey, Jr., a pediatrician and director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Naturally, when it comes to kids, safe is always better than sorry.

Source: Li CM, Hoffman HJ, Ward BK, Cohen HS, Rine RM. Epidemiology of Dizziness and Balance Problems in Children in the United States: A Population-Based Study. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2016.