Lactose intolerance is a problem that makes it hard to digest lactose. Lactose is a sugar that is found in milk and milk products. Some children don't make enough of an enzyme called lactase. This is used to digest lactose. When this happens, it can cause gas, belly pain, diarrhea, and bloating. This is not the same as a food allergy to milk.
Lactose intolerance affects different children in different ways. Some children cannot digest any milk products. Other children can eat or drink small amounts of milk products or certain types of milk products without problems. You can help your child learn how to avoid discomfort and still get enough calcium to build and maintain healthy bones.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
- Limit the amount of milk and milk products in your child's diet. If you are not sure whether a milk product causes symptoms, have your child try a small amount. And then wait to see how your child feels before they eat or drink more.
- Have your child eat or drink milk and milk products along with other foods. For some children, combining a solid food (like cereal) with a dairy product (like milk) can reduce symptoms.
- Have your child eat small amounts of milk products throughout the day instead of larger amounts all at once.
- Have your child eat or drink milk and milk products that have reduced lactose.
- Have your child eat or drink other foods instead of milk and milk products. Have your child try soy milk and soy cheese.
- Use lactase products. These are dietary supplements that help your child digest lactose. Some are pills that your child chews (such as Lactaid) before eating or drinking milk products. Others are liquids that you can add to milk 24 hours before your child drinks it. Try a few to see which ones work best for your child.
- Some children who are lactose-intolerant can eat some kinds of yogurt without problems, especially yogurt with live cultures. It's best to try a small amount of different brands of yogurt to see which ones work best for your child.
- Watch out for lactose in foods you buy. Some prepared foods contain lactose, including breads and baked goods, breakfast cereals, instant potatoes and soups, margarine, salad dressings, and many snacks. Be sure to read labels for lactose and for lactose's "hidden" names. These include dry milk solids, whey, curds, milk by-products, and nonfat dry milk powder.
- Find other sources of calcium. These include calcium-fortified orange juice, almonds, and dark green vegetables such as broccoli.
- If you are worried about your child getting enough nutrients, ask your doctor about giving your child supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D.
When should you call for help?
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your child has new or worse belly pain.
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- Your child does not get better as expected.
Where can you learn more?
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