The thyroid gland is in the neck near the voicebox. The gland is made up of a right and left lobe that sit on each side of the airway. The thyroid gland produces two different hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid hormones help control the body’s metabolism (how energy is used). T4 and T3 have an impact on every tissue in the body, that helps control the child’s heart rate, blood pressure, energy level, how your child uses calories, and your body temperature feels. In babies, the thyroid hormones are needed for brain growth and development.
The body works to control the amount of thyroid hormone (T4 and T3) by responding to a message from the brain, which produces thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH is released from the pituitary gland in the brain, that sends a message to the thyroid gland to either increase or decrease the amount of T3 and T4 that is produced. Once the body makes enough T3 and T4, the TSH (message from the brain to the thyroid) will decrease, so the thyroid gland stops making thyroid hormone (T3 and T4). This is similar to how your thermostat works in your house to help maintain a normal amount of hormone in the body.
The thyroid gland can either be hypo-functioning (under-producing) or hyper-functioning (over-producing). Symptoms you may see with hypothyroidism (thyroid gland is working too slow), is increased tiredness, dry hair, weight gain, or dry skin. In children with hyperthyroidism (thyroid gland is working too much), you may see fidgeting, feel like your heart is racing, or may feel like you cannot sit still.
To diagnose thyroid disease, your provider will draw labs to measure the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone and the amount of circulating thyroid hormone (T3 and T4). If you have concerns that your child may have thyroid disease, talk to your child’s primary care provider.