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December 14, 1979

Recurrent Abdominal Pain in a Healthy School-Aged Child Can Be Lactose Intolerance

JAMA. 1979;242(24):2670. doi:10.1001/jama.1979.03300240014015

Repeated bouts of abdominal pain in a healthy school-aged child may be a sign of inability to digest lactose. Researchers studied 80 children between the ages of 4 and 15 years who had been brought to the general medical diagnostic clinic at Children's Hospital Medical Center in Boston with complaints of recurrent abdominal pain.

All children seen during 12 months were admitted to the study if they had the following symptoms: primary complaint of intermittent abdominal pain of unexplained origin, more than three episodes of pain in less than three months, and pain of sufficient severity to affect activity.

On the basis of a breath-hydrogen test, 32 children (40%) were found to be unable to digest and absorb lactose. Lactose malabsorption was found to be especially common as a source of abdominal pain among children from minority groups. Of the 16 black children in the study, 12 proved to be