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Celiac Disease (cont.)

When To Call a Doctor

Call a doctor if you or your child has symptoms of celiac disease. These symptoms include:

  • Losing weight unexpectedly.
  • Diarrhea that lasts longer than 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Failure of a child to grow or gain weight as expected.
  • Unusual fatigue or mood changes, especially if these last more than a week and are not related to any other illness, such as the flu.

If you or your child has been diagnosed with celiac disease, call a doctor if:

  • Symptoms recur after having been absent.
  • A change in symptoms occurs, such as increased tiredness or increased stomach pain.
  • Your child has symptoms such as diarrhea or unexplained weight loss, and you know your child has not eaten gluten.
  • You can't tell whether your child has eaten foods that have gluten, and his or her symptoms continue.

Watchful Waiting

If celiac disease is suspected

If you think that you or your child may have celiac disease, watchful waiting is appropriate if mild symptoms of diarrhea or vomiting last only for a few days. Talk with a doctor if your child continues to have diarrhea and does not seem to be gaining weight as expected even though he or she has a good appetite.

If you or your child has celiac disease

If symptoms of celiac disease return after your child or you were symptom-free while following a gluten-free diet, it usually means that foods containing gluten were eaten. Try documenting your or your child's recent diet. Check food labels, looking closely for ingredients that may be sources of hidden gluten. Your local library or bookstore should have resources that can help you identify potential sources of hidden gluten. Also, a nearby hospital can usually direct you to local and national organizations that can help you follow a gluten-free diet. For more information, see the Other Places to Get Help section of this topic.

If your child has celiac disease and symptoms return, be sure to ask detailed questions about what he or she has recently eaten away from home. As children get older and more independent, they may be tempted to stray from a strict gluten-free diet. You can help your teenager follow a gluten-free diet by recognizing his or her need for independence. For example, you can let your teenager plan meals and choose gluten-free foods.

Call your doctor if you are confident that your or your child's diet is gluten-free but symptoms have returned or continue.

Who To See

Health professionals who may evaluate symptoms of celiac disease in adults or children include:

A doctor who specializes in problems with the digestive system (gastroenterologist) should be consulted to confirm the diagnosis with a small intestine biopsy. In addition, a dietitian can help you plan and stay with a gluten-free diet.

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

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