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.

Lactose Intolerance Special Needs Factsheet

What Teachers Should Know

People with lactose intolerance have trouble digesting a sugar in milk and dairy products called lactose.

The bodies of people with lactose intolerance don't make enough of an enzyme called lactase. When there's not enough lactase in the body, lactose doesn't get broken down in the small intestine, and it passes into the large intestine where bacteria ferment it into gases and acids. This can cause cramps, abdominal pain, gas, and diarrhea — usually within 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating or drinking anything that contains lactose.

For some students, symptoms can be very severe and they can't eat or drink anything that contains lactose. For others, symptoms may be milder and they just have to limit the number of dairy products they consume.

Students with lactose intolerance may:

  • have to sit closest to the bathroom because they need to take frequent bathroom breaks
  • be embarrassed by their symptoms
  • need to have special lunches prepared in the cafeteria
  • need to go to the school nurse for medication or to cope with symptoms
  • need additional time to make up class work due to symptoms associated with lactose intolerance

What Teachers Can Do

Lactose intolerance is not an allergic reaction and is usually not life threatening, but it can be upsetting or embarrassing for students when symptoms occur.

The best strategy for students with lactose intolerance is to avoid milk and dairy foods. But doing so can mean that those students don't get enough calcium in their diets. You can encourage them to eat calcium-rich foods in the cafeteria that don't have lactose, such as broccoli, collard greens, kale, turnip greens, salmon, almonds, soybeans, dried fruit, fortified orange juice, and tofu.

Most students know what they can and can't tolerate, but it's a good idea to contact their parents or guardians for a list of foods to be avoided so you can provide alternatives if snacks are eaten in class. Be sure to check with the school nurse if you have additional concerns.

Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: September 05, 2017