Almost every child will have abdominal pain at one time or another: pain in the stomach or belly area anywhere between the chest and groin.
Most of the time it is not caused by a serious medical problem, however, coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) need to be considered when it persists.
But when coeliac disease and IBD have been excluded, paediatricians call it Non Organic Recurrent Abdominal Pain of Childhood which has several variants including paediatric irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
IBS is one of the most common functional gastrointestinal disorders in adults and is increasingly recognised in children; however, it can be harder to diagnose and treat in kids.
According to Paediatrician Dr Michael Mahony, a child reporting any of the 'ABC' symptoms below for at least six months should be assessed for IBS:
Abdominal pain and discomfort
Change in bowel habits, either constipation or diarrhoea or both
1. Symptoms of IBS in children:
- Abdominal pain around the belly button (although it can be found all over the abdominal area). It can be a result of your child being bloated or their gut contracting more frequently than usual.
- Bloating after a meal and in the evening
- Alternate bouts of diarrhoea, constipation or mucus in the stools
- A need to visit the bathroom urgently while eating or shortly afterwards
- Extreme constipation and diarrhoea intermittently
- Changes in bowel habits including more than three motions per day or less than three motions per week, changes in the appearance of stools and urgency to use the toilet or a feeling of fullness even after using the toilet.
- Other symptoms of IBS include abdominal noise (borborygmi) or excessive wind
So, what can parents do?
Here are Dr Mahony's tips on helping children with IBS
1. Identify various stressors
Life events at home or at school or interactions with other children can contribute so parents need to be able to identify these stressors.
2. Watching what they eat
Junk food, takeaways and convenience meals can all contribute to IBS; introducing fresh fruit, vegetables and adequate water or fluid intake will help regulate their digestive cycle.
3. A good probiotic can also help
Biological factors such as altered bowel flora can also be important which is why Dr Mahony recommends a good probiotic such as Children’s Alflorex.