Mother Seeks Medical Attention For Two-Year-Old With “Sizable” Penis And Pubic Hair
Whenever Erica Brownsell took her 2-year-old, Barnaby, to the playground, people would ask why a child his age was still drinking from a bottle.
A stranger once remarked that “he looked like a little man.” She said some people had called him a “Viking” or “Samson” because of his muscular build.
But it wasn’t until Brownsell saw pubic hair around Barnaby’s “sizable” penis that she became seriously concerned.
“I knew it wasn’t normal,” the 43-year-old mother said, noting that her toddler appeared to be a 4- or 5-year-old boy. “He’d have massive, sustained erections and his height and weight were off the charts.”
Brownsell added: “He weighed 26 pounds at the age of 1 and put on over two pounds every month between the ages of 12 and 18 months. It wasn’t fat, just muscle.”
Dr. Tony Hulse, a pediatric endocrinologist at Evelina London Children’s Hospital in the UK, was baffled when Brownsell consulted him in March.
Blood work showed that Barnaby had the testosterone level of a grown man — when it should be negligible for a boy his age. Young Barnaby also had the bone density of a 4.5-year-old child.
Further tests ruled out the most common causes, such as an endocrine tumor or a congenital disorder that affects the adrenal glands.
“It was very scary,” Brownsell said.”Nobody seemed to know what was going on.”
Then doctors questioned whether Barnaby had been exposed for long periods to an artificial testosterone treatment meant for adults.
“My husband had been using testosterone gel for several years,” Brownsell said, explaining that Barnaby’s father, Peter, was born with a complex testicular condition.
“I spent two years of my life thinking that I was protecting and taking care of him when in fact his own environment was contaminated,” Brownsell said.
According to Brownsell, a career consultant, her husband used the product — brand-named Testogel in the UK and AndroGel for the equivalent type of drug in America — on his skin to help correct his testosterone deficiency.
Dr. Benjamin Udoka Nwosu, the head of pediatric endocrinology at Cohen Children’s Medical Center said the absorption of testosterone gel or cream is “never complete.”
“There’s some testosterone left on the skin, even hours after the application,” Nwosu said. “Family members and other individuals who have close contact with the male patient are at risk of direct exposure.”
The doctor said that the testosterone “gets into the bloodstream” even when the patient wears clothing. “Studies have shown that even if you cover the site with a T-shirt, 40 to 48% of the hormone can be transferred,” Nwosu said.
He said that if the exposure “occurs over a long period of time,” the amount of testosterone can be harmful. The high levels are particularly dangerous to children, Nwosu said, because they can enter puberty years before their peers.
The symptoms include acne, pubic and underarm hair, and oversized reproductive organs.
Brownsell said that his father took care of Barnaby after he applied the Testogel, his wife said, before describing the 65-year-old father as a “hands-on dad.”
The physician, who strongly advises people to use disposable gloves when they apply the gel, said he was relieved to tell Barnaby’s parents that his chronological age would eventually “catch up” with his body. He explained that the boy’s testosterone levels would return to normal now that his dad had switched to testosterone injections.
“Barnaby will stop growing so rapidly,” Hulse said, adding that the problem was caught relatively early and “hopefully it won’t have done any long-term damage.”