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Lactose Intolerance in Children

Find out more about your child’s condition and how to reduce these unpleasant symptoms.

When a child is diagnosed with lactose intolerance, it simply means that they aren’t able to completely digest lactose, or milk sugar, that is found in dairy products. While the condition is not usually dangerous it can produce some uncomfortable symptoms.

What causes lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is often caused by a lack of or deficiency in lactase, an enzyme that the lining of your small intestines produces. While some people may have lower levels of lactase, only those who present with actual symptoms truly have lactose intolerance.

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?

By limiting your intake of dairy products, you can reduce the symptoms of this condition. You may notice symptoms developing from 30 minutes to a couple of hours after consuming dairy products. The most common symptoms of lactose intolerance are diarrhea, gas, bloating, stomach cramps, nausea and sometimes vomiting. While most symptoms tend to be more mild, some patients with lactose intolerance many have more intense symptoms. If your child displays any signs that have you concerned, it’s always best to call their pediatrician right away.

Are there any risk factors for developing this condition?

There are several factors that can increase your child’s risk of developing this condition.

Age: This condition tends to increase in likelihood as you age; therefore, it’s rather uncommon to see lactose intolerance in babies or little ones.
Ethnicity: Certain ethnicities are more prone to developing lactose intolerance, including those of African, Asian, and American Indian descent.
Premature: Since lactase increases in fetuses during the third trimester, babies that are born prematurely are more likely to develop with lower levels of the enzyme.
Certain medical conditions: Children with Crohn’s disease, celiac or other intestinal conditions are more likely to develop lactose intolerance.
Cancer treatment: Children and adults who have undergone radiation therapy in the abdominal or intestinal regions are more susceptible to developing this condition.

How is lactose intolerance treated?

While lactose intolerance is not curable there are a variety of treatments and lifestyle changes that can reduce your symptoms. The best way to prevent symptoms from occurring is to limit your intake of dairy products, or to remove all dairy from your diet. However, dairy contains calcium, which children need to help them grow. It is recommended that you incorporate broccoli, milk substitutes, oranges, spinach and other calcium-­enriched products into your child’s diet to help replace the calcium they aren’t getting from milk.

If you child does choose to consume dairy, make sure they have smaller serving sizes (about four ounces at a time). Stock up on lactose­-free products, or if your child wants milk, only give them milk during mealtime when it will be easier to digest.

Medications

There are also over-­the-­counter medications that contain lactase to make it easier to digest dairy. Your child should take this medication before they consume dairy; however, keep in mind that this medication doesn’t help everyone with this condition.

If you suspect that your child has lactose intolerance, then it’s time to talk with your child’s pediatrician to figure out how to reduce their symptoms while also maintaining a healthy, nutrient­-rich diet!

Questions or Comments?

At Harvest Pediatrics, we encourage you to contact us whenever you have a concern or question related to your care.
You can reach us at:


Napa: (707) 252-1076
St. Helena: (707) 963-0171

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Napa Office

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Wednesday:

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St. Helena Office

Monday:

8:30 am-5:00 pm

Tuesday:

8:30 am-5:00 pm

Wednesday:

8:30 am-5:00 pm

Thursday:

8:30 am-5:00 pm

Friday:

8:30 am-5:00 pm

Saturday:

Closed

Sunday:

Closed