Pediatric HealthSource: Celiac Disease

Ivor Hill, MD, MB, ChB

Q: My son recently was diagnosed with celiac disease. I heard from a friend that he could possibly outgrow it. Is this true?

A: Celiac disease is a chronic condition that occurs in about one in 100 people and results in damage to the lining of the small intestines. While most people know that a person with celiac disease needs to avoid gluten, there are still several myths that parents should clear up to be as knowledgeable as possible about their child's health.

Myth: Kids can outgrow celiac disease. Celiac disease is a lifelong condition. While there is no known cure, a happy, normal life is possible with proper management.

Myth: My child's pediatrician can prescribe a medication to treat celiac disease. Unfortunately, there are no medicines that treat or cure celiac disease. The only treatment is to follow a gluten-free diet.

Myth: Celiac disease and wheat allergy are the same thing. In people with celiac disease, the lining of the small intestine is damaged when any food containing gluten—including wheat, barley and rye—are ingested. Those with a wheat allergy, on the other hand, only need to avoid wheat products.

Always consult your child's pediatrician concerning your child's health.

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Ivor Hill, MD, MB, ChB, is the founder of the Celiac Disease Center in the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Nationwide Children's Hospital.


Going Gluten-Free

Adapting to a gluten-free diet can be initially challenging for a child. In order to help make this lifestyle change more comfortable, parents should:

Educate – Be sure to inform other adults in your child's life, including teachers, nurses, coaches, baby sitters and friends' parents, about the condition. Explain the importance of keeping foods containing gluten away from your child.

Be on the lookout – Cross-contamination poses a risk to someone with celiac disease. Be sure to tell servers and other restaurant staff about your child's dietary restrictions, and also teach your child to communicate his or her needs.

Be patient and encouraging – Teach and empower your child to read food labels and be on the lookout for foods that may contain gluten.