Coeliac Society calls for increased testing of children

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. 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.

Gill Brennan, CEO of the Coeliac Society of Ireland, said: “After such a disruptive couple of years, children are returning to what we all hope is a normal schooling experience. For some who are coeliac or gluten intolerant this poses many challenges.

“In addition to being cautious about what they eat and share with their friends at break times, some children don’t want to stand out or to be seen as being different from their friends. Our new Gluten Free Back to School & College Hub is full of information that will help parents and their children prepare for the new term.  

“There’s 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.

Ms Brennan noted that coeliac and gluten intolerant children may present with symptoms that include bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, delayedgrowth or puberty, dermatitis herpetiformis, iron deficiency anaemia, lethargy, irritability, and an inability to concentrate.

Gill Brennan Said: “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.”

To coincide with the new hub the Coeliac Society have also organised an open webinar for parents entitled Child Nutrition and Fussy Eating. Hosted by dietician Sarah Keogh on at 1pm on 25th August, the talk will cover topics that include subjects like does your child have a balanced diet, are they a fussy eater and how can you manage their eating habits so that they can eat a wide variety of nutritious foods.

Sarah will also provide details on the key nutrient’s children need to stay not only healthy but will help them stay alert and concentrate in schools.

All are welcome to attend, and you can register on

Back to School Hub Link