Crohn's Disease in Children: Care Instructions

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Organs of the lower digestive system


Crohn's disease is a lifelong inflammatory bowel disease. Parts of the digestive tract get swollen and irritated. The tract may have deep sores called ulcers. Crohn's disease usually occurs in the last part of the small intestine and the first part of the large intestine. But it can occur anywhere from the mouth to the anus.

The main symptoms of Crohn's disease are belly pain, diarrhea, fever, and weight loss. Some people may have constipation. Crohn's disease also sometimes causes problems with the joints, eyes, or skin. Symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe. The disease can also go into remission. This means it is not active and there are no symptoms.

Bad attacks often have to be treated in the hospital. There your child can get medicines and liquids through a tube in a vein (I.V.). This gives the digestive system time to rest and recover.

Talk with your doctor about the best treatments. Treatments include:

  • Medicines that help prevent or treat flare-ups of the disease.
  • Surgery to remove part of the bowel. Surgery is done if there is an abnormal opening (fistula) in the bowel, an abscess, or a bowel obstruction. In some cases, surgery is needed if medicines don't work. But symptoms can return to other areas of the intestines after surgery.

Learning good self-care can help your child reduce symptoms and manage Crohn's disease.

Teens can be especially frustrated by this disease. Flare-ups may leave them feeling more dependent on their parents than they want to be. They may feel different from their friends. Counseling may help teens who are having a hard time coping with the disease.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with any medicines.
  • Do not give your child anti-inflammatory medicines. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve). They may make symptoms worse.
  • Talk to your doctor before you give your child any other medicines or herbal products.
  • Avoid foods that make symptoms worse. These might include milk, high-fiber foods, or spicy foods. It may help to keep a diary of foods that make symptoms worse.
  • Offer your support. Children tend to have a harder time managing the disease than adults. Encourage your child to stick with treatment so they can feel better, start growing again, and lead a more normal life.
  • Talk to a dietitian to make sure your child is getting the nutrition, including vitamins and minerals, that they need.
  • Be sure your child is up to date on all immunizations.
  • Follow the doctor's recommendations for any cancer screening.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child's stools are maroon or very bloody.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has symptoms of dehydration, such as:
    • Dry eyes and a dry mouth.
    • Passing only a little urine.
    • Feeling thirstier than usual.
  • Your child has new or worse belly pain.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has new or worse nausea or vomiting.
  • Your child has new or more blood in their stools.
  • Your child cannot pass stools or gas.
  • Your child has pus draining from the area around the anus or pain and swelling in the anal area.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child has new or worse symptoms, such as diarrhea gets worse.
  • Your child loses weight or doesn't gain weight.
  • You or your child is struggling to manage Crohn's disease.
  • Your child is not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.