Children comprise as many as 100,000 of the cases of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in the United States. An estimated 25 percent of all cases of IBD are diagnosed in childhood.
The Cedars-Sinai Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Program notes that pediatric IBD is on the rise, and more funding in the areas of genetics and immunology are needed in order to better determine the exact reason for the increased incidence.
One study done in Canada also saw an increased incidence in childhood IBD, which the researchers theorized could be due to changes in gut bacteria.
Signs your child may be at risk for IBD
- Family history of IBD, especially in a first-degree relative
- Unexplained anemia
- Blood in the stool
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite or what seems like picky eating (in younger children)
- Unexplained fever or fatigue
- Growth delay
- Joint pain, swelling, or rash (in the absence of injury or arthritis)
IBD testing in children
There are several tests that your physician will want to run if he or she suspects that your child has IBD. Some might include:
- Blood tests
- Stool testing
- Upper GI (gastrointestinal) testing
- CT (computerized tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- Endoscopies (either colonoscopy, upper endoscopy, or video capsule endoscopy)
Treating IBD in children
Children are not just tiny adults, and doctors tailor IBD treatments accordingly, keeping specific side effects in mind as well as the challenges the child will face dealing with a chronic illness in a school setting. Some of the most common treatments used are:
- Nutrition therapy
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Immune-system suppressors
If you still have questions about your child’s symptoms and whether IBD might be the cause you should set up an appointment with your pediatrician. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation also has a lot of resources that can he helpful to parents or anyone with a new diagnosis.
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Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.