A child with an undiagnosed gluten allergy may experience a range of symptoms that may affect him or her emotionally, mentally or physically. An allergy to gluten can affect your child's mood and quality of life. Making a timely diagnosis and enforcing a strictly gluten-free diet is the only method to limit the danger and damage caused by this condition.
The number of children who are being diagnosed with gluten allergies is growing. However, doctors often do not suspect a gluten allergy in children, and therefore often miss this diagnosis. Parents who are concerned that their children may be allergic to gluten should look out for any of the following symptoms: weight loss, failure to thrive, abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue, short stature, a chronic and itchy rash (known as Dermatitis Herpetiformis), or digestive problems such, as diarrhea or constipation.
One form of gluten allergy, known as celiac disease, is a hereditary disease where the body reacts to gluten proteins by attacking the lining of the small intestine. As a result of the body's reaction, the villi, or finger-like hairs that line the intestinal wall, are damaged, affecting the child's ability to process absorb food and nutrients. There are more than 250 documented symptoms of celiac disease, and the symptoms can vary slightly between children and adults and even between infants and adolescents. Be aware that infants will not begin to display symptoms of gluten allergies until solids containing gluten are introduced to their diets. Some of the more common symptoms of celiac disease in babies include bruising very easily, steatorrhea (foul-smelling stools that are often gray in color and are fatty or oily), an unhealthy pale appearance, abdominal distension, frequent gastrointestinal stress such as diarrhea or constipation, a failure to thrive, and even autism.
Diagnosing celiac disease in adolescents can be even more challenging, and a diagnosis can often be misinterpreted as part of the hormonal changes taking place in a teenager's body. Some symptoms in this age group include attention deficit disorder, unexplained weight loss, failure to thrive, abdominal pain, abdominal bloating, flatulence, an itchy rash (Dermatitis Herpetiformis), and Addison's disease. Furthermore, children who reach adolescence with undiagnosed celiac disease may also experience increased incidences of vomiting; deficiencies in vitamins B12, D, and K may also indicate celiac disease.