Take our poll: Surgeries for liposuction and ear reshaping are becoming popular with school age children, especially during the summer holidays, say doctors.
Cosmetic surgery for children aged just 7 on rise in UAE
DUBAI // Children as young as 7 are visiting plastic surgeons during the school holidays for procedures ranging from liposuction to ear reshaping.
The number of operations on patients under 18 spikes in the summer, with some youngsters having treatments to avoid being bullied for their appearance.
About 30 per cent of bookings at the Medical Arts Clinic in Jumeirah next month are for children. "We normally see more children during the summer because that's when they're off school," the clinic's Dr Luiz Toledo said.
"Problems normally come up when they start going to school and relating with their peers. They might get bullied because they have big ears.
"We normally treat this when they are around 7 or 8 years old. It's a simple treatment but effective because it changes their lives completely."
Cosmesurge Middle East has performed liposuction on boys as young as 14. "We are seeing so much obesity in children because their parents allow them to have fast food," said the clinic's owner, Dr Max Sawaf.
"Not only do they get fat, the oestrogens from the fat can make boys develop breasts. They start shying away from wearing T-shirts and participating in sports. "While we'd like them to lose weight naturally, it's very difficult once they develop those breasts. Liposuction is more common than you'd think."
Counsellors have raised concerns over possible psychological problems. "It sends out the wrong message to children," said Dr Raymond Hamden, director of the Human Relations Institute and Clinics. "It teaches kids there's something wrong with them. It validates the bullies and teaches them that others should govern how they feel about themselves."
"It also gives children the message that parents don't have time to help them develop confidence and a positive self-image, or to learn to defend themselves and be emotionally stable," Dr Hamden said.
Dr Rajeshree Singhania, a paediatrician at Singhania Clinic, said acceptance of others and their differences was a problem in schools.
"Overweight kids are really made fun of," she said. "The key problem is acceptance of people and their differences. That should be a compulsory part of the curriculum."
Dr Sawaf said about a third of his clients were Emirati, while the remainder are a mix of different nationalities.
He said children normally had treatment to have their ears pinned back or reshaped before they start going to school.
"We call them fly-away ears," he said. "The children get teased at school. We want to do it as early as possible, but at the same time they have to be grown enough to withstand the anesthesia."
Dr Allen Rezai, whose Elite Cosmetic Surgery Group in Dubai also has a clinic in the UK, said surgery for youngsters in response to pressure at school was common in England and Dubai.
"Everyone knows they could have problems in school," he said. "So even before the child starts to go to school, and before they realise there's a problem, we can do the surgery for them.
"We do it because we don't want them to hate school, or having trouble making friends. That can cause more psychological damage to them than anything else."