The Coelic Society of Ireland has launched a new campaign ‘Grow With Us’ to raise awareness for the estimated 7,300 children who have the condition but are undiagnosed.
In a statement, the Society has highlighted that it has enlisted 3,600 members of its members for sponsored walks to raise awareness of the issue.
“Through their own personal experiences many of them are only too aware of the current difficulties in not only getting diagnosed but also the delays in accessing the right supports,” said Gill Brennan CEO of the Coelic Society of Ireland.
The Coeliac Society of Ireland said that 20% of the 36,500 people in Ireland with undiagnosed coeliac disease are aged under 14, based on EU averages.
Brennan added: “With so many children suffering unnecessarily it is important that we organise events like these to inform the public that this disease is real, can be diagnosed and that it is very manageable.”
Impact on Children
“Coeliac disease is a chronic autoimmune disease that impacts growth and development in children as well as impacting on their concentration at school and their energy levels in all areas of their lives,” explained Sarah Keogh, Coeliac Society in-house dietitian.
“Children can complain of abdominal pain – pain that is often put down to anxiety – as well as exhaustion.”
Poor absorption of key nutrients means these children may not reach their full height potential and girls will often have delayed periods and impacts on fertility in later life.
Keogh highlighted: “We need to think coeliac more often in children – low energy, stomach pains, low iron, picky eating and unexplained weight loss are all signs to look out for.”
Coeliac Awareness Week
The sponsored walks will take place during Coelic Awareness Week which runs from 13 – 19 May this year and is focused on children coeliac sufferers with the theme ‘Grow With Us’.
Members plan to walk or run between 2km and 5km, which is the equivalent of at least 7,314km or 1km for every undiagnosed child and amounts to walking around Ireland twice.
Coeliac Disease Explained
The Society explained that Coeliac disease is an auto-immune disease in which the affected individual reacts abnormally when gluten is ingested.
Gluten is a protein found in many foods including bread, pasta, gravy and soy sauce.
Symptoms include abdominal pain, recurring mouth-ulcers, weight-loss, vomiting and diarrhoea. If untreated, coeliac disease can affect fertility and lead to other health conditions such as osteoporosis.
The first step to receiving a diagnosis, advised the Coeliac Society of Ireland is to visit your GP for a simple blood test.
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