A child is likely to have celiac disease if the characteristic symptoms of copious diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating and fatigue are present. Nevertheless, the symptoms of the condition in children can be subtle. In some cases, the child might not grow as rapidly with other children of the same age or he/she may be inattentive and irritable.
There are various possible signs and symptoms of celiac disease. With this in mind, it is best to consider testing for celiac disease particularly in cases in which a child does not have any digestive symptoms but has a family history of the condition.
Close look on celiac disease in children
Some children can suffer from constipation due to celiac disease instead of diarrhea. This occurs with abdominal pain and bloating. In some cases, there is alternating constipation and diarrhea.
Failure to thrive is another indication of celiac disease in children. The child falls behind the growth curve with height and weight gain that is lower than children of the same age. On the other hand, those who have the disease are not always short or underweight.
Children who have the usual symptoms are diagnosed earlier than those who have less typical symptoms, probably since doctors might recognize the possibility of the disease more readily.
What are the symptoms in children?
Most children have iron deficiency anemia as a primary indication of celiac disease. This develops since the body could not absorb iron from foods eaten, but it resolves rapidly once the condition is diagnosed and a gluten-free diet is started.
Many children with undiagnosed celiac disease also display irritability although it is uncertain why this manifests. There is a possibility that they might not feel well or there is a link with vitamin deficiencies such as iron, vitamin D and zinc.
Testing for celiac disease
Just like with adults, children can develop the condition at any time and must undergo testing if any symptoms are present, even if these are subtle or uncharacteristic.
It is important to note that children who have close relatives with the disease must be tested even if they do not have any symptoms. Remember that it is quite common to discover “silent” celiac disease among relatives of those who were recently diagnosed with the condition and they should also start with a gluten-free diet to avoid any complications in the future.
Once a child is diagnosed with celiac disease, the only treatment available is to stick with a gluten-free diet. It is good to note though that the child can enjoy a growth spurt once the condition is diagnosed and any irritability and inattentiveness can be dealt with. When the gluten-free diet is started, the child will become happier and energetic as well as perform better in school.