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Crohn's Disease in Children: Care Instructions

Organs of the lower digestive system

Your Care Instructions

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 rectum and 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. Your child's symptoms may be mild at some times and severe at others.

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, called an IV. 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 often 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. Counselling 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 or nurse call line 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 or nurse call line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine.
  • 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-fibre foods, or spicy foods. It may help to keep a diary of foods that make symptoms worse.
  • Talk to a dietitian to make sure your child is getting the nutrition, including vitamins and minerals, that he or she needs.

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).

Call your doctor or nurse call line 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 belly pain, or the pain gets worse.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has nausea or is vomiting.
  • Your child has new or more blood in his or her stools.
  • Your child's stools are black and look like tar, or they have streaks of blood.

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

  • Your child loses weight or doesn't gain weight.
  • Your child's diarrhea is getting worse.
  • You or your child is struggling to deal with Crohn's disease.
  • Your child is not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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