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What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Inflammatory [in-FLAM-uh-tawr-ee] bowel disease is a condition where your child gets a lot of intestinal pain. It’s a chronic (long-lasting) condition that causes parts of the intestine, also called the bowels, to swell up. However, it may affect any area of the digestive system, including the:

  • Mouth
  • Stomach
  • Esophagus [ih-SOF-uh-guhs]
  • Stomach
  • Small intestines
  • Large intestines
  • Anus

The 2 major types of inflammatory bowel disease are:

  1. Crohn’s [KROHNZ] disease.
  2. Ulcerative colitis [UHL-suh-rey-tiv kuh-LAHY-tis]

Since inflammatory bowel disorders are chronic, the symptoms can show up again and again over a long period of time.


The symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease include:

  • Pain in your child’s stomach
  • Diarrhea [dahy-uh-REE-uh]
  • Blood in your child’s stool (poop) or in the toilet
  • A fever
  • Loss of weight
  • Your child having low energy
  • Bleeding in your child’s rectum
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Swollen eyes
  • Joint pain
  • Mouth ulcers

Complications of inflammatory bowel diseases include:

  • Blocked intestines
  • Fistulas [FIS-choo-luhs]
  • Abscesses [AB-sehs-es]
  • Fissures in the anus
  • Ulcers
  • Malnutrition
  • Swelling in other parts of your child’s body

When to See a Doctor

See your child’s doctor if your child complains of:

  • Very bad pain in their stomach
  • Uncontrollable diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Skin sores that don’t heal
  • A high fever that doesn’t come with any other illness


It’s not known exactly what causes inflammatory bowel disease, but some things that may factor into the condition include:

  • Family history and genetics
  • Ethnicity (people of Jewish descent get inflammatory bowel disease more often)
  • Environment
  • Your child’s body overreacting to bacteria
  • Smoking
  • Age (though the disease can occur at any age.)

Diagnosis and Tests

Usually, multiple tests are needed to figure out whether your child has inflammatory bowel disease. The doctor may do tests, including:

  • A physical exam to check for swelling or bloating. The doctor may also listen for sounds in the belly or tap to check for enlarged organs.
  • Lab tests, like blood tests or stool tests.
  • Intestinal endoscopy [en-DOS-kuh-pee]. This is a procedure in which a tube with a small camera on the end is used to look insider your child’s body. It’s the best method for ruling out other conditions that have similar symptoms to intestinal bowel disease. Types of intestinal endoscopy include colonoscopies or upper GI endoscopies.
  • CT scan. This is an imaging test that uses electromagnetic waves to take a picture of your child’s stomach to check for the presence of an inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Upper GI series. A test that uses a combination of x-rays, barium (a liquid), and a fluoroscopy (a kind of x-ray) to check for the presence of inflammatory bowel disease.


Treatments for inflammatory bowel disease include:

  • Medicine. There are lots of different kinds of medicines to help treat inflammatory bowel disease. Some options include: o Supplements that give your child extra fiber.
    • Acetaminophen for pain. (Avoid other medicines like ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin. These can make your child’s symptoms worse.)
    • Medicines to reduce swelling and bolster digestive strength.
  • Diet and Nutrition. A healthy and balanced diet that includes enough protein, nutrients, and calories can help lessen the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.
    • Some foods can make inflammatory bowel disease worse by causing pressure to build up in the abdomen. Some examples include:
      • Dairy products.
      • Foods that cause gas, like beans.
      • High-fiber foods like seeds, nuts, or popcorn. o It can help to drink more water.
    • Triggers can vary from child to child. Keep an eye on what foods make the symptoms better and what makes them worse.
  • Stress. Stress in your child’s life can make it harder for them to deal with the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. Try to lessen stress where possible.
  • Bowel rest. Bowel rest allows your child’s digestive system to work less by only eating and drinking certain things. This process can be done either at your home or in the hospital. This process is very helpful for your child’s health.
  • Surgery. If other treatment methods haven’t helped with the symptoms, surgery may be needed to take out parts of the digestive system that are damaged. Other problems that may require surgery include:
    • Bleeding.
    • Your child failing to grow.
    • Infections.
    • Fistulas (connections between the intestines and other parts of the body that should not be there).


Since the cause of inflammatory bowel disease is not known, it’s hard to prevent. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking may help prevent the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.

Inflammatory bowel disease is a condition where your child has intestinal inflammation and irritation. The exact cause is not known, but the condition does tend to run in families. It can be treated by eating a certain diet, taking medicine, resting your child’s bowels, or having surgery if the intestines have been damaged.