What parents need to know about Crohn’s disease
About 1,000,000 Americans live with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and nearly one in four of these patients are under 20 years old according to the American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. Many of these patients have Crohn’s Disease-a specific type Inflammatory Bowl Disease (IBD) which affects the gastrointestinal tract.
Parents of children diagnosed with Crohn’s disease may have a great deal of uncertainty about what to expect for their children’s future. However, today, there are outstanding treatments available that allow kids with Crohn’s disease to have a happy childhood that includes sports and other social activities.
When a child is diagnosed, Michele Cho, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill, encourages parents to reiterate to their child that they did nothing to cause the disease, they did not catch it and they cannot give it to anyone else.
“Children should be comforted knowing that everyone around them is working to help them feel better,” said Dr. Cho. “It may help for them to know that there are many other kids who have the same problem.”
Treating Crohn’s is an on-going process and flare-ups can occur at any time, according to Dr. Cho. This makes monitoring a child important. Some signs to look for include persistent abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stools, loss of appetite, nausea, weight loss, pale skin and persistent fevers. However symptoms can also occur outside of the GI tract such as eye pain/redness, mouth sores, joint pain or swelling, skin nodules and kidney stones.
In most cases, medication will sufficiently treat the disease, however for some surgery may be necessary to treat certain conditions. Surgery will not cure the disease and is best used along with medical therapy according to Dr. Cho.
It is also important for kids to eat a healthy diet which supports health, growth and bone strength so that the child can reach their full growth potential.
While physical health is crucial, parents should also pay attention to how their child is feeling.
“Dealing with a chronic disease can lead a child to feel alone, depressed, anxious, scared and overwhelmed,” says Dr. Cho. “The child may require more energy/effort than normal to keep up with academic and social demands.”
To help them cope with the disease, parents should keep an open dialogue with their children and teach them coping techniques like relaxation and breathing exercises. Behavioral therapy and a meeting with a counselor or psychologist can be helpful as well.
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