Sugar Intolerance in Children

Sugar intolerance is a digestive condition that affects children and adults alike. If both parents have been diagnosed with fructose intolerance, another name for sugar intolerance, the children will have a 25 percent likelihood of having the same condition, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Sugar intolerance is commonly confused with an allergy, but it is a very different condition. Sugar intolerance is caused by a defect in the digestive system, while an allergy is the result of a hypersensitivity of the immune system.


The cause of sugar intolerance in children is based on the child’s family medical history. There is no cure or prevention for this condition, but it is manageable through dietary changes. The intolerance to sugar, primarily fructose and sucrose, is due to the inability to digest sugar because the small intestines fail to create the aldolase B enzyme. Enzymes are proteins that help the body break down sugars and food proteins into a simple form that can be absorbed by the body. If your child doesn’t produce this enzyme, the sugars she ingests will remain undigested, causing complications.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms from fructose intolerance are typically easy to identify. Keep a record of your child’s diet and the type of symptoms that develop after he eats certain foods. Common symptoms may include vomiting, jaundice, poor feeding, convulsions, irritability, sleepiness, yellow eyes, low blood sugar and fussiness, according to MedlinePlus. Symptoms may progressively get worse because the inability to process sugar can cause toxic chemicals to build up in the liver and can eventually cause liver failure. Your child may also experience sudden drops in blood sugar.


Once diagnosed, your child will have to remove all fructose and sucrose from her diet. This may be difficult, because these sugars are found naturally in honey, syrup and fruits, and are commonly used in processed and packed foods. Avoid table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit, fruit juices, powdered sugar, soda, flavored water, sorbitol, sweetened milk and sports drinks. Inform your child’s school, friend’s parents and other caretakers about the condition to prevent accidental ingestion of sugar.


If your child’s condition goes undiagnosed, certain complications can develop. Common complications associated with sugar intolerance include gout, bleeding, liver failure, hypoglycemia, seizures and even death. Talk with a dietitian to develop a diet for your child that is free of all dangerous sugars and balanced with essential nutrients.