Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk and milk products, such as cheese and yogurt. Lactose is digested by lactase, an enzyme in the small intestine. Some children do not produce enough lactase to digest lactose. This is called lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is different from milk allergy, which is a more serious reaction to the protein in milk.

Causes of lactose intolerance may include:

  • Getting older. After about the age of 2, your child’s body begins to produce less lactase.
  • Being born without the ability to make lactase.
  • Premature birth.
  • Digestive diseases such as gastroenteritis or inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Infections in your child’s intestines.
  • Surgery or injuries to your child’s small intestine.
  • Certain antibiotic medicines and cancer treatments.

Lactose intolerance can cause uncomfortable symptoms. These are likely to occur within 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating or drinking foods containing lactose. Symptoms of lactose intolerance may include:

  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Abdominal cramps or pain.
  • Fussiness.
  • Bloating.
  • Gas.

There are several tests your health care provider can do to diagnose lactose intolerance. These tests include a hydrogen breath test and stool acidity test.

No treatment can improve your child’s ability to produce lactase. However, your child’s symptoms can be controlled by limiting or avoiding milk products and other sources of lactose and by adjusting his or her diet. Your child may tolerate lactose-free milk. Lactose digestion may also be improved by adding lactase drops to regular milk, or by giving your child lactase tablets when dairy products are consumed.

Tolerance to lactose is individual. Some children may be able to eat or drink small amounts of products with lactose, while others may need to avoid lactose entirely. Talk to your child’s health care provider about what is best for your child.

  • Limit or avoid foods, beverages, and medicines containing lactose as directed by your child’s health care provider.
  • Read food and medicine labels carefully to avoid giving your child products containing lactose, milk solids, casein, or whey.
  • Make sure your child gets enough of the important nutrients found in milk and milk products, such as calcium, vitamin D, and protein. A registered dietitian or your child’s health care provider can help you adjust your child’s diet.
  • Consult with your health care provider before choosing a substitute for milk.
  • Give your child lactase drops or tablets if directed by his or her health care provider.

Your child has no relief from his or her symptoms after eliminating milk and milk products and other sources of lactose.

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Genomic Medicine UK is the home of comprehensive genomic testing in London. Our consultant medical doctors work tirelessly to provide the highest standards of medical laboratory testing for personalised medical treatments, genomic risk assessments for common diseases and genomic risk assessment for cancers at an affordable cost for everybody. We use state-of-the-art modern technologies of next-generation sequencing and DNA chip microarray to provide all of our patients and partner doctors with a reliable, evidence-based, thorough and valuable medical service.

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