Conditions + Treatments

What is celiac disease in children?

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Contact the Celiac Disease Program

  • 617-355-6058
  • International: +1-617-355-6058

The experts in our Celiac Disease Program are some of the best in the country when it comes to diagnosing and helping families manage celiac disease with a gluten-free lifestyle. We also have a vibrant and active support group, Celiac Kids Connection with more than 350 member families.

No parents want to hear that their child has a chronic illness, but the good news is that celiac disease (CD) is always treatable by changes in diet. This means that your child can avoid side effects associated with medicine, and as a bonus, often the whole family eats more healthily after a member is diagnosed with celiac disease.

Celiac disease is a lifelong intolerance to gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and also in oats that have been contaminated with gluten from other products. In people with celiac disease, gluten damages the lining of the intestines. This can prevent them from absorbing nutrients and cause a variety of other symptoms.

  • Celiac disease is far from uncommon—recent studies suggest that an estimated 1 in 133 people in the United States are affected by the condition, and many are undiagnosed.
  • There is no “cure” for celiac disease, but lifelong avoidance of gluten is effective treatment.
  • CD tends to affect more girls than boys.
  • There’s a strong hereditary component with celiac disease.
  • Living with celiac disease usually gets a lot easier with time, as you build up your knowledge.

5 things to know about celiac disease

Questions to ask your doctor

After your child is diagnosed with a celiac disease, you may feel overwhelmed with information. It can be easy to lose track of the questions that occur to you.

Lots of parents find it helpful to jot down questions as they arise–that way, when you talk to your child’s doctors, you can be sure that all of your concerns are addressed.

If your child is old enough, you might suggest that she write down some questions to ask her health care providers, too. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Could something else be causing my child’s symptoms?
  • When should my child see results – in other words, when will we know whether the diet modifications are working?
  • Are any symptoms considered an emergency? What should we do if it happens?
  • How much experience does this institution have in treating children with celiac disease?
  • Do you have any materials I can use to help describe my child’s condition to others?

It’s important for your family and your child to remember that your child is not being deprived of anything—instead, safe versions of certain foods will replace the ones she used to eat.

For more information on everything from recipes, shopping and cooking tips to sibling considerations to planning activities and travel, visit the Celiac Disease Program and Support Group’s online Family Health Education Series.

Celiac disease: Reviewed by Alan M. Leichtner, MD, FAAP
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