Signs Of Gluten Intolerance In Toddlers: What To Look Out For

Signs Of Gluten Intolerance In Toddlers: What To Look Out For

Are you worried that your toddler may have gluten intolerance? What are the signs of gluten intolerance in toddlers and how do they differ from other gluten-affected conditions?

Toddlers with gluten intolerance will usually show signs of bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Rather than an allergy, toddlers with gluten intolerance are simply unable to easily digest gluten.

However, signs of gluten intolerance in toddlers may possibly resemble signs of celiac disease. Learn the difference between gluten intolerance, wheat allergy, and celiac disease in toddlers and how they are treated.

Gluten Intolerance vs Wheat Allergy

The main difference between gluten intolerance and a wheat allergy is that one is a digestive issue while the other is an immune system allergy. Gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity may be at hand if your toddler experiences mild yet uncomfortable symptoms after eating gluten products. 

Just as someone who’s lactose intolerance experiences digestive discomfort when eating dairy, so does someone who has gluten intolerance when consuming gluten or wheat products. Similarly, someone who’s lactose intolerant isn’t allergic to dairy, but simply has trouble digesting it. The same applies to those with gluten intolerance.

As for a wheat allergy, the reaction will be more severe, and clear signs of an allergic reaction such as hives or rashes will appear. If you notice your toddler having an allergic reaction after eating gluten, then you will need to see a doctor for them to test and see if your child does in fact have a wheat allergy and learn what to do from there.

What is Celiac Disease?

Rather than being a digestive or allergy issue, celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that is triggered when eating gluten. This is a chronic condition that will cause the body to attack itself when gluten is digested. Although rare, there is still a possibility and a medical professional should be sought if you think your child may have celiac disease.

A blood test can reveal whether your child has celiac disease and should then avoid gluten and wheat products entirely. While you may think gluten products are bread and pasta, there are more foods containing gluten than you may have originally thought.

Some hidden gluten foods include:

  • Cakes and pies
  • Candies
  • Ice cream
  • Cereals
  • Cookies and crackers
  • Croutons
  • French fries
  • Hot dogs and processed lunchmeats
  • Salad dressings
  • Sauces, including soy sauce
  • Soups, bouillon or soup mixes

When you or your child is diagnosed with celiac disease, you’ll find that you will soon become an expert in reading food labels and scanning every ingredient to ensure that there’s no gluten in the product. 

Gluten Intolerance: Signs and Symptoms

Wondering what the difference is between all three conditions are? Let’s break down the signs and symptoms of the mildest illness which is gluten intolerance. Since it is a digestive issue rather than an allergic reaction, rashes or hives will not occur. Instead, symptoms of a gluten intolerance will include:

  • Bloating
  • Difficult bowel movements
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Visible as early as six to twelve months considering this is when wheat products are first introduced in toddlers
  • Odd smelling stools

The most common treatment for gluten intolerance is to simply limit and manage gluten intake. However, removing gluten entirely is not necessary considering it is very extreme to enforce an entirely wheat and gluten-free diet for children.

Wheat Allergy: Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of a wheat allergy can range from mild to severe. As this is an allergic reaction, you will likely see symptoms within minutes or hours after eating wheat. The symptoms of a wheat allergy include:

  • Runny nose
  • Congestion, coughing, or sneezing
  • Itchy or red skin
  • Nausea
  • Hives, rashes, or raised red bumps on the skin
  • Swollen and/or itchy lips or mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Anaphylaxis (rare), when the trachea is constricted and breathing is stopped

A wheat allergy is rare in both children and adults. If a doctor performs an allergy test and discovers your toddler has a wheat allergy, then lifelong avoidance of wheat and wheat products will be required unless further testing determines they have grown out of it, which is possible.

Celiac Disease: Signs and Symptoms

Although symptoms of gluten intolerance and celiac disease may coincide, there are some more serious symptoms and consequences, such as damage to the intestines, that occur when someone who has celiac disease consumes gluten. These symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Difficult bowel movements
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition

Similar to a wheat allergy, treatment for celiac disease will require lifelong avoidance of gluten products. This can ensure no further harm will be done to their intestines and allow them to heal. By avoiding processed foods and cooking with whole ingredients at home, you can fully know that your toddler is not consuming gluten.


Discerning the difference between gluten intolerance, wheat allergy, and celiac disease in young children can be difficult. By closely watching your child when they consume any wheat or gluten products, you can search for any symptoms that may fall under the three conditions previously discussed.

Since gluten intolerance is a digestive issue, symptoms will include vomiting, diarrhea, and/or constipation. Meanwhile, a wheat allergy will cause symptoms similar to various allergic reactions such as trouble breathing, hives, rashes, and/or swollen lips. 

Finally, celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disease where symptoms will be triggered by the consumption of gluten. When gluten is ingested by someone with celiac disease, their intestines will be attacked by their own body and can cause damage if gluten is repeatedly consumed. 

If symptoms do occur after eating wheat and/or gluten foods, speaking with your child’s pediatrician will be the next course of action to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment. Whether it’s gluten intolerance, wheat allergy, or celiac disease, there is treatment for a full, long, and happy life. 

No diagnosis for any of these conditions should cause any anxiety or stress as a parent. With a proper diet and food label-reading, living gluten or wheat-free life is completely attainable and still delicious.

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