Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Children

About Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease refers to two chronic (or recurring) conditions called “Crohn’s disease” and “ulcerative colitis,” which cause redness and swelling (inflammation) in parts of the intestinal tract. Like asthma, IBD symptoms in children occur in bouts — periodically flaring up for sometimes weeks or months.

 
What’s the Difference Between IBS and IBD?

Often confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), IBD is a condition that can cause the intestines to narrow and restrict food from moving through the bowel. IBS is a functional disorder, which means the digestive system looks perfectly normal, but it doesn’t work exactly like it should. IBD and IBS have many similar symptoms, but IBS doesn’t cause blood in the stool (bowel movements or poop) like IBD can.

 
Crohn’s vs. Ulcerative Colitis in Children

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are both inflammatory bowel diseases that cause inflammation to different parts of the digestive system. Crohn’s can occur anywhere along the intestinal tract, but it’s commonly found in the last segment of the small intestine (ileum) and the large intestine (colon). Ulcerative colitis mostly affects the colon.

Crohn’s impacts the entire thickness of the intestine and can affect more than one section of the intestinal tract. In contrast, ulcerative colitis occurs only within the inner lining of the organ and is found only in one spot.

 
What Causes IBD in Children?

The exact cause of IBD in children is unknown. However, experts agree that the environment, genetics, and/or diet may have something to do with it. Scientists believe that an overactive immune system may trigger inflammation in response to an offending agent, like a virus or certain foods. Researchers are actively studying IBD to get to the bottom of possible causes, and hopefully help relieve IBD symptoms in children and adults.

First Aid: Constipation

First Aid

Constipation is a common problem in which a child may have fewer bowel movements (BMs or poops) than usual. It usually isn't a cause for too much concern.

Constipation can often be remedied and prevented with the three Fs: fluids, fiber, and fitness.

Signs and Symptoms

  • fewer bowel movements than usual
  • straining and pain during bowel movements
  • stool (poop) that's hard, dry
  • larger stools than usual
  • feeling full or bloated
  • abdominal (belly) pain
  • a little blood on the toilet paper after a BM

What to Do

  • Give your child plenty of water or juice. If your baby is constipated, ask the doctor about adding prune, apple, or pear juice to the daily diet.
  • Increase the fiber in your child's diet. Try apples, pears, oranges, beans, popcorn, oatmeal, and whole-grain breakfast cereals or breads.
  • Encourage daily exercise to encourage bowel movements.
  • Talk to your doctor before giving your child any medicine for constipation.

Seek Medical Care

If Your Child Has:

  • constipation lasting a week
  • liquid stool in the underwear when your child isn't sick
  • abdominal (belly) pain
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite

Think Prevention!

Skip fatty, sugary, or starchy foods, which can slow the bowels down. Choose fiber-rich foods instead and make sure they're washed thoroughly. Also, making sure kids are active every day will help keep their bowels moving, too.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: September 26, 2016