Coeliac Society calls for increased testing of children

Back to school hub launched to assist the estimated 100,000 Irish children suffering from coeliac disease and gluten intolerance



24 August 2021 | 0

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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 & 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, according to the association, with simple sandwiches and tempting treats leading 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.

“After such a disruptive couple of years, children are returning to what we all hope is a normal schooling experience,” said Gill Brennan, CEO of the Coeliac Society of Ireland. Being coeliac or gluten intolerant can pose more problems for children who often don’t want to stand out as different from their friends, she added.

The hub features “advice on preparing a healthy nutritional gluten-free lunchbox, recipes that will set them up for the day, as well as suggestions for liaising with schools and the children’s teachers, and how to deal with social occasions such as 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. 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,” Gill Brennan said.

“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’,” she added.

To coincide with the new hub, the Coeliac Society has also organised an open webinar for parents entitled Child Nutrition and Fussy Eating. This will be hosted by dietician Sarah Keogh at 1pm on 25 August. All are welcome to attend, and you can register on

To visit the Back to School Hub, head to





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