Get the Inside Tract on IBD

Boston Children’s Top 10 Things to Know About IBD

In honor of National Crohn’s & Colitis Awareness Week, we gathered top tips about Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis in children and young adults.

Our Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center treats approximately 1,500 children, adolescents and young adults each year and is committed to increasing IBD awareness. 

  IBD affects both children and adults

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation 10 percent, of the estimated 1.6 million Americans who have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), are under age 18. The number of children diagnosed under age 5 is also growing.

  IBD usually lasts a lifetime

IBD is an autoimmune disease. This means the body’s own immune system attacks the intestine for reasons doctors and researchers are still working to unravel. Patients have to take medication every day for the rest of their lives to keep symptoms at bay.

  Nutrition matters

When the intestine is under attack, it has a hard time absorbing nutrients. This means it’s important for everyone with IBD to be aware of what they eat. “Generally, the fewer ingredients and less processed a food is, the better,” says Sophie Burge, dietitian in the Boston Children’s Hospital IBD Center.

  IBD can be managed

Most people can control their IBD with medication that they must take every day. Sometimes surgery is recommended for those with severe symptoms.

  Stress and anxiety can make symptoms worse

Learning how to cope with stress and anxiety isn’t always easy. But it’s especially important for kids with IBD to keep stress under control. Yoga and meditation are just two of the tools that may be helpful. 

  IBD doesn't have to hold your child back

Most people with IBD lead active, full lives, including many professional athletes, famous musicians, actors and actresses, and politicians.  

  “IBD is a disease that kids and young adults don’t want to talk about."

- Dr. Scott Snapper, Director of Boston Children’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center

IBD can be an embarrassing disease. Intestinal pain, frequent or unpredictable bowel movements, diet changes and medication management can impact a child’s self-esteem and quality of life. Our expert team of clinicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists and nutritionists understand these challenges and support their young patients every step of the way.

  Schools can provide help

There are laws in place that help make sure a student with IBD has what they need to do their best in school. Called "504 plans" in public schools, and "individualized health plans" in private schools, they help support kids’ medical needs during the school day, and can provide support if a child needs to miss school because of IBD.

  Very early onset inflammatory bowel disease (VEOIBD) is on the rise

This form of IBD is severe and debilitating and is diagnosed in infants and children younger than age 6. This condition has dramatically increased over the past decade. Kids diagnosed with VEOIBD before age 6 now make up about 5 percent of all pediatric IBD cases. 

  We are making advances in research

At Boston Children’s, we are studying all facets of IBD, including the genes that cause IBD in young children, the intestinal bacteria that might cause IBD flares, and the best and safest ways to use drugs and diet to treat IBD. Through our research, we hope to create a brighter future for all people with IBD.

Learn more about Boston Children’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center and our approach to care.