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Children and Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is not only an adult condition. If your child has any or all of the below symptoms, or is simply out of sorts and you don't know why, please ask your GP for a coeliac test today. It is easy to diagnose and the treatment is very successful.

Common symptoms in children include:

  • A bloated stomach
  • Diarrhoea and/or constipation
  • General tummy upsets and/or vomitting
  • Tiredness or lack of stamina
  • Anaemia
  • Poor growth and physical development
  • Failure to thrive
  • Difficulty in concentrating at home or at school

Children with coeliac disease won't "grow out of it" and they can't get better unless they have the proper treatment. Diagnosis is simple - visit your doctor and ask for a test to screen for coeliac disease. If they are diagnosed, once they receive the proper treatment, they will live active, healthy lives just like any other child.

Explaining coeliac disease to children

Children are amazing and can adapt very quickly to a new diet. They will have been feeling poorly for sometime, which they will associate with food. They will soon realise that they feel better on their new diet and will bounce back very quickly.

Pictures from Me & My Tummy

  • Explain to young children that they have a special tummy and what gluten does to their bodies – obviously this should be tailored to your child’s age and understanding.
  • It's important to explain coeliac disease to the whole family - including siblings. You might like to go through your cupboards and label all gluten free products with a smiley face sticker and products that are not gluten free with a warning sticker to ensure everyone gets the message.
  • In terms of cooking for the family, many dishes can be made suitable for a gluten free diet by simply substituting certain ingredients (such as stock cubes). It is essential to take sensible steps to prevent contamination with gluten-containing foods in the kitchen.
  • If you are ever unsure about what food is gluten free, we have a range of resources to help you identify gluten free products.
  • Our new member pack contains fact sheets especially for children, you can also download more resources for children from our Members Area.



Starship Children’s Health and Coeliac New Zealand have created a unique partnership to provide better community support and care for children with coeliac disease. This has included the development of a new regional clinical pathway, for children who live in the Auckland, Waitamata and Counties Manakau District Health Board regions. For more information on the new clinical pathway see the Diagnosis Information page.