The Coeliac Society of Ireland has said there needs to be increased testing of children for coeliac disease amid concerns that as many as 12,500 children in Ireland have the condition, but most are undiagnosed.
The call came as the Society launched a new Back to School and College Hub on its website to help parents and children stay safe and eat well as they return to education this autumn.
School can be a minefield for children who have coeliac disease or are gluten intolerant. Simple sandwiches and tempting treats can lead to unnecessary pain and suffering. The Coeliac Society’s Gluten Free Back to School Hub provides information and advice on how to recognise the symptoms of coeliac disease and gluten intolerance, as well as tips on making delicious gluten-free lunches and snacks, and how to manage play dates and birthday parties.
Based on average European prevalence rates, one in every 100 people in Ireland is coeliac and seven in 100 are gluten intolerant. Ms Brennan noted that coeliac and gluten intolerant children may present with symptoms that include bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, delayed growth or puberty, dermatitis herpetiformis, iron deficiency anaemia, lethargy, irritability, and an inability to concentrate.
“We estimate that there are 12,500 coeliac and nearly 88,000 gluten intolerant children aged 0-18 in Ireland today – with the vast majority being undiagnosed. The Society is working closely with GPs and medical practitioners to ensure that there is more routine testing of children for the disease – but we need more to join the campaign and to ‘Think Coeliac’.
“Of course, not everyone will be coeliac or gluten intolerant, but for those who are early diagnosis can prevent or mitigate the possibilities of developing more serious issues like infertility, osteoporosis even diabetes and some cancers later in life.
“Many people with coeliac disease go undiagnosed for years. If we can empower parents to ask the right questions and ensure that regular testing takes place in the health sector then we will prevent a lot of pain, suffering and potentially save lives,” Gill Brennan, CEO of the Coeliac Society of Ireland, said.