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Too much exertion makes thin teen feel dizzy and faint


Q: I'm a 14-year-old boy. I'm kind of skinny and I feel tired all the time, even though I eat three meals a day. When I play sports, I get dizzy and feel like I'm going to faint. My doctor said my complete blood count was normal. Is there anything wrong with me?

A: The symptoms you describe are not normal, and a careful search for an explanation is warranted. We can think of several possibilities.

Although you eat three meals each day, you may not be getting enough of the basic nutrients your body needs. You should eat three or four servings per day of fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates (such as rice, potatoes or noodles) and two servings per day of protein (such as meat or fish).

The fact that you feel dizzy and lightheaded when you play sports may simply reflect your being out of shape. Not everyone can participate at top level without gradually building up his strength. These symptoms could indicate, however, that there is something wrong with your heart or lungs. The complete blood count that you had would not pick this up.

Finally, our emotions can affect how we feel. If you're under a lot of stress at home or school, you may wind up feeling exhausted. Teen-agers who use drugs (including alcohol) will wind up feeling this way.

The best way to sort out what is happening to you is to talk with your parents and make an appointment with your doctor. A thorough examination should discover the cause of your symptoms and get you back to feeling healthy again.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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