Tummy Trouble? Could it be Lactose Intolerance?

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Belly pain can be very distressing to children and parents alike. Lactose intolerance is an extremely rare diagnosis to be made in an infant, however, it is increasingly common as children grow older. Here are some things to consider from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Is my child lactose intolerant?
    • What are the symptoms?
      • Abdominal pain, cramping, and bloating
      • Nausea and gas
      • Loose, watery diarrhea
    • How is it diagnosed?
      • There are several ways to diagnose, but the simplest way is to eliminate dairy from the diet for 2 weeks to see if symptoms improve. Afterwards, slowly reintroduce dairy to see if symptoms return. If they do, this is a likely cause.
      • A hydrogen breath test and/or stool acidity tests may be ordered by your pediatrician.
      • It is more likely for a child to be lactose intolerant if there is a family history.
    • Is it always permanent?
      • No, there can be transient lactose intolerance with certain viral illnesses.
        • This is why you may hear it is best to avoid milk/cheese/other dairy products during a GI illness.
    • What should I do if I believe my child is lactose intolerant?
      • Discuss your child’s symptoms and family history with your pediatrician.
        • They will examine your child
        • They will consider other diagnoses as well and may order tests and/or give a referral to a pediatric gastroenterologist
    • Is there a treatment?
      • True lactose intolerance is best “treated” with avoidance of dairy, but lactase enzyme supplements may be used.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns regarding lactose intolerance, please contact your pediatrician. Here are some helpful links from the American Academy of Pediatrics:


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