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.

A to Z: Constipation

A to Z: Constipation

Constipation means having fewer and harder bowel movements (poops) than usual.

More to Know

Constipation is when:

  • Someone has fewer than three bowel movements in a week.
  • The poop is hard, dry, and very large.
  • It's difficult to poop.


Constipation is not usually a sign of something serious. Common reasons kids get constipated are:

  • not having enough fluids and fiber in the diet
  • too little exercise
  • not fully emptying the bowel when pooping

People who are constipated might have belly pain and a hard time pooping. They might see a bit of blood on the toilet paper after wiping because straining to pass a hard stool can crack the skin of the anus.

Some kids might get constipated because of changes in routine. They might be worried or stressed about a new situation. For example, kids who start a new school may feel nervous about using a new bathroom. Constipation can also be a side effect of some medicines.

Constipation usually goes away on its own when kids drink enough fluids, eat high-fiber foods, and get enough exercise. Kids should also learn to go to the toilet when they feel the urge and not try to hold in a bowel movement. 

Keep in Mind

Sometimes, bad constipation can be a sign a child has a health problem. Call your doctor if constipation lasts more than a week or a child also has bad belly pain or throws up.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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Date reviewed: September 05, 2017