Irritable Bowel Syndrome Home > Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in Children

People of all ages can be affected by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including children. This digestive condition can cause several symptoms in children, including abdominal (stomach) pain, bloating, and changes in stool patterns. When treating IBS in children, the most common option is dietary changes. This can include eating more fiber and less fat to help avoid colon spasms.

Does Irritable Bowel Syndrome Affect Children?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic digestive condition. IBS affects people of all ages, including children. In children and adolescents, irritable bowel syndrome equally affects girls and boys.
Irritable bowel syndrome is classified as a functional disorder because it is caused by a problem in how the intestines (bowels) work. People, including children, with IBS tend to have overly sensitive intestines that go into muscle spasms in response to foods, gas, and sometimes stress. These spasms may cause pain, diarrhea, and constipation.

Symptoms of Childhood Irritable Bowel Syndrome

For children with irritable bowel syndrome, symptoms may include one or several of the following:
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Changes in stool patterns, including diarrhea-predominant, constipation-predominant, or a variable stool pattern.
Children with IBS may also have headaches, nausea, or mucus in the stool. Weight loss may occur if a child eats less to try to avoid pain. Some children first develop symptoms after a stressful event, such as teething, a bout with the flu, or problems at school or at home. Stress does not cause IBS, but it can trigger the symptoms.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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