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: Stomachaches

First Aid

Stomachaches can be caused by many things, from gas or constipation to stress, overeating, or a contagious stomach bug. Sometimes, complaints about stomach pain may have nothing to do with the stomach itself — pain can come from another part of the body.

Signs and Symptoms

Seek Medical Care

If a Stomachache Is Accompanied by:

  • pain that's frequent, increasing, or severe
  • pain that starts near the belly button, then moves to the lower right side of the abdomen
  • difficulty walking due to pain
  • persistent vomiting, especially if it is greenish-yellow
  • signs of dehydration
  • trouble having a bowel movement (poop)
  • bloody or black bowel movements
  • loss of appetite for more than a day or two

Think Prevention!

Encourage kids to:

  • avoid overeating or eating right before going to sleep
  • never share utensils, cups, straws, etc.
  • get plenty of fluids and fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables
  • reduce fatty, greasy foods like fries and burgers
  • wash hands well, especially before eating and after going to the bathroom
  • get lots of sleep and talk about their worries to help deal with stress

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