Can children be lactose intolerant?
Children can be lactose intolerant, but iIt can be difficult to know whether your infant or child is having symptoms of lactose intolerance or whether he or she may have a milk allergy.
Many parents confuse lactose intolerance and milk allergy. While they may share similar symptoms, they are entirely different conditions.
Lactose intolerance is a digestive problem, while milk allergy involves the immune system. So, while lactose intolerance can cause a great deal of discomfort, it will not produce a life-threatening reaction.
When do lactose intolerance symptoms appear in infants and children?
Milk allergies tend to appear within the first year of life, while an infant's digestive system is still quite immature. Lactose intolerance can start in childhood into adolescence and can become more noticeable into adulthood.
What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?
The symptoms of lactose intolerance depend on the amount of lactose that is consumed. The more lactose your child consumes, the more symptoms he or she will experience.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance can occur within minutes to hours after drinking milk or eating dairy products and range from mild to severe based on the amount consumed and the amount tolerated. The symptoms you should look out for are mainly nausea, abdominal pain, bloating, loose stools and gas.
How can a child be diagnosed for lactose intolerance?
You may be able to check if your child has trouble digesting lactose by taking all the milk products out of your child's diet for two weeks and to then see if his or her symptoms improve. After two weeks, slowly reintroduce the products in small amounts each day to see if symptoms return.
Your paediatrician can also test your child for lactose intolerance with a hydrogen breath test.
How common is lactose intolerance in children and infants?
Lactose intolerance is very rare in infants and typically only starts showing up after age three in children who were born full-term. All babies are born with lactase in their intestines. As they grow older, the lactase enzyme decreases.
Congenital lactase deficiency is a very rare dis order in which babies can't break down the lactose in breast milk or formula.
Genes inherited from parents cause this disorder. This type of intolerance results in severe diarrhoea, and if not fed a lactose-free infant formula, those babies could develop severe dehydration and weight loss. Your paediatrician is the best person to check your baby and give you the proper advice.
If your child has lactose intolerance, he or she may still eat lactose-free dairy products including lactose-free milk, cheese, and yogurts and they all are good sources of calcium. In addition, your child can get calcium from dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale, nuts, beans and fish.
It is advisable that you talk with the paediatrician to ensure your child is getting enough calcium and is having a balanced and nutritious diet.