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What is Gastroenterology?

Gastroenterology [gas-troh-en-tuh-ROL-uh-jee] focuses on the function and diseases of the digestive system. The digestive system includes the digestive tract plus the liver, pancreas [PAN-kree-uhs] and gallbladder. The digestive tract is made up of the mouth, esophagus [ih-SOF-uh-guhs], stomach, intestine, colon, and rectum.

Like adults, children can suffer from problems of the digestive tract. Many of these are common and get better on their own, such as mild tummy aches or even vomiting or diarrhea with some viruses. Other digestive problems can last longer and may need treatment to get better.

A pediatric gastroenterologist can diagnose and treat many digestive disorders in children and adolescents. Common gastrointestinal disorders in children include:

  • Food allergies
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders (EGID)

Tummy aches, diarrhea, mild constipation, and vomiting can be common in infants and children. While in most cases, these conditions will get better on their own, they may also be symptoms of a digestive problem. Be sure to tell your child’s doctor of any changes in your child’s bowel habits.

If you notice blood in your child’s stool, or if they are vomiting blood, contact your child’s doctor right away. This may be a symptom of a serious medical problem that needs immediate treatment.

When to See a Doctor

Most digestive problems in children are mild and will likely pass quickly. However, if you notice any the following symptoms is not going away, then you should call your child’s pediatrician:

  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal (tummy) pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Poor weight gain
  • Stool incontinence

To diagnose digestive problems, your child’s doctor will conduct a medical history and physical exam. They will ask you questions about your child’s eating habits and if you have noticed any changes in your child’s bowel movements. Depending on your child’s symptoms, their doctor may order some tests. These tests may include any, or all, of the following: