Almost three years ago, our youngest daughter Madeleine was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s just after her 8th birthday. She had been hospitalized for a couple of days due to chronic constipation and they didn’t know what was causing it. The poor little cherub hadn’t pooed in over a month despite being on massive doses of adult strength laxatives. She was in terrible pain and discomfort, her hair was falling out, she was losing weight, and had stopped growing altogether.
Children experience all the symptoms that adults do – fatigue, constipation, brain fog, brittle hair, hair loss, depression and so on. Unfortunately, because they are still growing, they face additional risks. Insufficient levels of thyroid hormones in a child can stunt their growth, impair their intellectual development, and even prevent them from going through puberty (or cause it to occur prematurely). It’s a big deal!
Rates of hypothyroidism are higher than ever. Back in the 1960s, Hashimoto’s was considered uncommon, and yet by 1995, it was estimated that 11.7% of people have abnormal TSH and around 13 million people in the US alone have undiagnosed abnormal thyroid function!
The upside of this is that people are now talking about it. Medical management and community awareness of the condition are improving – albeit slowly.
What is often overlooked however, is the incidence of Hashimoto’s among young children. As the diagnosis of autoimmune diseases in general continues to grow at alarming rates among the general population, sadly it is also becoming more common among our children. Hashimoto’s is still considered by many to be a disease of adult women, and as such is often overlooked or not even tested for in children. Some doctors believe, and I quote “Children just don’t get it!” Unfortunately in our case, it was the doctor that didn’t “get it”.
This lack of awareness extends further out into the general community. Because it is not considered an illness that affects children, it makes accessing disability services more difficult as there are not protocols in place. It’s not like when a child is diagnosed with autism for example – where they are then able to access resources such as Occupational Therapy, Counselling, Speech Pathologists and assistance within the school environment. Even more difficult for families facing this diagnosis is the complete lack of support. There are no foundations, charities, or not-for-profits for children with Hashimoto’s. No local support groups for parents to get together to help each other out and swap coping strategies. A diagnosis of Hashimoto’s in your child can in fact be an isolating experience.
Add in to the mix that you have a young child who may now need to take daily medication, suffers debilitating fatigue, chronic digestive issues, and pain, and you can begin to see where the “behavioural issues” so often reported by parents come from.
So what should you do if you suspect your child may have thyroid issues?
Get them tested!
Especially if there is a family history of thyroid disease. While not considered genetic, it is familial. Blood tests are not fun for any of us, least of all for kids, but it is essential that they receive treatment as soon as possible if they are hypothyroid.
The good news though, is that word is spreading. Slowly but surely, support groups are starting to take shape – especially online.
So if you are concerned, follow your mother’s intuition and get them tested. The ramifications of not knowing are far worse than dealing with a diagnosis. There are many fantastic resources available now to help guide you through diet and lifestyle modifications which can have a tremendous impact on their health and wellbeing.
If you’d like to read more about Hashimoto’s in children, why not check out my book Help! My Child Has Hashimoto’s.
Cindy Kennedy is a Nutritional Medicine Practitioner & Clinical Herbalist who lives and breathes Hashimoto’s on a personal and professional level. Her true passion lies in turning gluten and dairy-free living from a restricted diet into a delicious and abundant family-friendly lifestyle.