Back-to-school jitters take on an extra dimension when your child has an inflammatory bowel disease, whether it be ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or a related IBD. As a parent, you are justified in having concerns that your child will make it through each school day without emergency trips to the bathroom, pain or other symptoms.
Inflammatory bowel disease affects more than 1.5 million Americans, with 10 percent of that number being children, according to an estimate from the Mayo Clinic. The average age at which children are diagnosed with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease is 12, noted a website called IBDkids.org from the Children’s IBD Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Ten percent of the center’s patients were diagnosed before age five, however.
IBD is an inflammation of the intestinal lining for which there is no cure, although medication can often control it and/or put it in remission. When it does occur, it brings watery diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal cramps and pain, fever, weight loss and other symptoms.
Experts in the field of pediatric IBD offer many suggestions for easing the transition from summer vacation -- when parents can keep a better eye on their child’s condition -- to school-day schedules:
First, let the school know about your child’s condition, advises Amber J. Tresca, the About.com guide for IBD. Notify the principal and school nurse. Find out who will be administering your child’s medication during the school day and give them a doctor’s note with specifics on the dosage, intervals and potential side effects. Find out how the school deals with makeup assignments for children who have long absences due to a chronic illness.
Second, inquire with the school about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which ensures that school-age children with disabilities receive proper accommodations in the classroom. Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act is another course of action. IBD in most cases will count as a disability.
Third, learn about organizations that advocate for those with IBD.