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What are the Signs of Lactose Intolerance in Toddlers?

Anna T.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The most common signs of lactose intolerance in toddlers are typically stomach cramping, gas, and diarrhea. These symptoms often present themselves between 30 minutes and a few hours after a toddler has consumed a dairy product. Some toddlers may not have these symptoms to as great a degree as others because lactose intolerance levels vary with each child. It is possible for many lactose intolerant toddlers to be able to have small amounts of dairy without any problems, while even a minute amount in others could bring on severe symptoms.

Lactose intolerance in toddlers should be diagnosed by a doctor before a parent does away with dairy products. If lactose intolerance is suspected, it may be a good idea for parents to keep track of how often dairy products were consumed by their child and how long afterward before symptoms were experienced. This information can help a doctor decide if lactose tolerance could be causing the problems. A doctor can then do some tests to confirm his or her suspicions.

Doctors typically perform a series of simple tests to diagnose lactose intolerance in toddlers. The first test performed generally involves having the toddler fast for a few hours and then consume something containing lactose. Blood sugar levels are sampled afterward to see how easily the lactose is being digested. After this test, a hydrogen breath test and a stool acidity test may be performed. High levels of hydrogen in the breath normally indicate undigested lactose, as do high levels of acid in the stool.

Treating lactose intolerance in toddlers is generally very simple. Avoiding foods containing lactose, which includes dairy products, is required the majority of the time to eliminate symptoms. Parents will need to closely examine their child's reaction to lactose to determine how much, if any, lactose can be allowed. Dairy products are a major source of calcium in the diet of the average person, so it is crucial that parents of lactose intolerant toddlers provide another calcium source. Most green vegetables and some types of fish are considered acceptable substitutes.

Most of the time, symptoms of lactose intolerance in toddlers do not surface until around three years of age. Lactose intolerance is not always a lifelong problem. Babies who are diagnosed as lactose intolerant are usually able to tolerate dairy as they get older. Many toddlers and children who are affected may also eventually outgrow it and consume dairy with no problems later in their lives.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Anna T.
By Anna T.
Anna Thurman is a skilled writer who lends her talents to The Health Board. Her ability to research and present information in an engaging and accessible manner allows her to create content that resonates with readers across a wide range of subjects.
Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On May 07, 2013

@fBoyle-- It's kind of hard to know if a toddler has lactose intolerance just from those symptoms.

Crying, screaming and irritability definitely occur when there are digestive problems, but I think that a toddler with lactose intolerance would be showing these symptoms since birth.

My nephew is also intolerant of lactose but he has been since he was an infant. He would scream and cry and couldn't sleep for hours after he had milk.

By literally45 — On May 06, 2013

@fBoyle-- Does she have diarrhea?

My son had constant bloating and diarrhea before he was diagnosed with lactose intolerance. You may want to stop giving her milk and milk products for a few weeks. Then, one day give her some milk and see how she reacts to it.

The best thing to do actually is to get a lactose intolerance test because some children can be sensitive to cow's milk but might be okay with cheese or goat's milk. You wouldn't want to cut out all milk products from her diet without being sure that she is allergic.

By fBoyle — On May 06, 2013

My toddler cries and acts fussy after having milk products but I'm not sure if it's an intolerance to lactose. I don't think she has any stomach cramps but she does experience some indigestion and gas.

Anna T.
Anna T.
Anna Thurman is a skilled writer who lends her talents to The Health Board. Her ability to research and present information in an engaging and accessible manner allows her to create content that resonates with readers across a wide range of subjects.
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