Kids and lactose, dairy intolerance

Caring For Our Kids

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Cold treats like ice cream may seem like the perfect summer snack, but, for many kids – enjoying dairy products can result in a painful stomach ache or even worse.

Sometimes it’s tough to know if your child’s symptoms are from lactose intolerance or an allergy to milk.

Dr. Chad Thornhill, with G-I for Kids at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital stopped by the WATE 6 On Your Side studios for this week’s “Caring For Our Kids” to share more.

What is lactose intolerance?

It is a digestive problem. The body has difficulty digesting a type of sugar called lactose, which is found in milk and other dairy products.

Is lactose intolerance the same as a milk allergy?

No. Both can cause discomfort of the stomach & GI tract, but a true milk allergy involves the immune system… and can cause rash, hives and in severe cases anaphylaxis… which involves trouble breathing and can be life-threatening.

What are the signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance?

These can occur within minutes to hours after drinking milk or eating dairy products, and can range from mild to severe based on the amount consumed and amount tolerated:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain/cramps
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea

Can babies be lactose intolerant?

It is not very common in infants, typically showing up after age three. All babies are born with lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose, in their intestines. As they grow older, the enzyme decreases.

How can lactose intolerance be treated?

Treatment depends on the extent of a child’s symptoms. Some may be able to have small amounts of dairy products without symptoms, but others are more sensitive and may have to avoid dairy all together. Your child’s doctor may recommend over the counter supplements to help with digestion of dairy products. If your child’s symptoms persist, he will likely be referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist for further evaluation.

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