IBS is a common cause of chronic abdominal pain in children, especially older children and teens.
These children can have IBS symptoms that include:
- Abdominal pain, which is usually below or around the child's belly button (periumbilical). The child with IBS may also have abdominal cramps, gas, bloating, and a distended belly.
- Relief from abdominal pain after a bowel movement
- Association of abdominal pain with a change in the frequency and form of bowel movements, with an alternating pattern of constipation and diarrhea and loose, mucusy stools
Frequency and duration of the symptoms, however, is most important when determining if a child has IBS. The symptoms should occur at least once a week and should be present for at least two months or longer, which is different than the adult IBS criteria (symptoms should be present for at least six months).
Although it is not known what causes IBS, it is thought that certain foods and drinks -- including caffeine, chocolate, milk and dairy products, wheat, rye, and barley -- or stress may trigger episodes of IBS.
Treatments for IBS in children may include high-fiber foods, a diet that avoids known triggers, peppermint oil, or the tricyclic antidepressant amitriptyline.
A pediatric gastroenterologist may be helpful in evaluating and treating your child with IBS, as well as making sure there isn't another cause of his or her chronic abdominal pain, such as celiac disease or lactose intolerance.