Almost every child will have abdominal pain at one time or another. Abdominal pain is pain in the stomach or belly area. It can be anywhere between the chest and groin. Most of the time, it is not caused by a serious medical problem but coeliac disease and Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) need to be considered when it persists.
When abdominal pain recurs, and 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).
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common functional gastrointestinal disorders in adults and is increasingly recognised in children. IBS in children can be harder to diagnose and to treat. Dr Michael Mahony spells out the signs and symptoms of IBS in children.
“Any child reporting any of the symptoms below for at least six months should be assessed for IBS. The ABC’s of IBS are:
Abdominal pain and discomfort Bloating Change in bowel habits, either constipation or diarrhoea or both
“Abdominal pain is one of the main symptoms of IBS; usually the pain is around the belly button, but sometimes all over the abdominal area. It can be a result of your child being bloated or their gut contracting more frequently than usual.
Bloating is usually worse after a meal and in the evening . Your child may also experience alternate bouts of diarrhoea or constipation or mucus in the stools. They may need to visit the bathroom urgently while eating or shortly afterwards.”
“Some children can get extreme constipation and diarrhoea intermittently. Changes in bowel habits can include 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.
Dr Michael Mahony Tips on IBS in Children:
1. Life events at home or at school or interactions with other children can contribute and parents can identify various stressors in a child`s life.
2. Watching what children are eating can help relieve symptoms. Junk food, takeaways and convenience meals can all contribute to IBS symptoms. Introducing fresh fruit, vegetables and adequate water or fluid intake will help regulate their digestive cycle.
3. Biological factors such as altered bowel flora can also be important and if symptoms persist, I would recommend a good probiotic such as Children’s Alflorex®. Similar to the Adult Alflorex supplement, Children’s Alflorex contain the unique and patented 35624™ culture in a clever and convenient pre-loaded straw, providing an easy way for parents to get their child to take a daily supplement.