Symptoms of Crohn's disease in children

Find out about some of the common symptoms of Crohn's disease in children.

The symptoms of Crohn’s disease are different for each person, so you may not experience exactly the same symptoms as someone else.

Some of the common Crohn’s disease symptoms you may experience are:

  • Vomiting (being sick)
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Diarrhoea (pooing a lot)
  • Blood or mucus (slime) in poo
  • Urgency to poo
  • Constipation (unable to have a poo)
  • Tummy pains
  • Mouth ulcers (sore spots inside your mouth)
  • Not wanting to eat
  • Bloating (your tummy feels big and full)
You can read more about some of these symptoms further down this article.

Which symptoms you get will depend on where in your digestive system your Crohn’s disease is. If you have it in the upper part (for example from your mouth to stomach) you are more likely to experience nausea, vomiting and mouth ulcers.

However, if you have it in your lower half (such as in your colon) you are more likely to experience diarrhoea, constipation and blood in your poo. It is possible to have Crohn’s disease in several parts of your digestive system so you may experience most or all of these symptoms. The symptoms you have may also change from day-to-day.

Although Crohn’s disease is in your digestive system, it can cause other other areas of your body to be affected. These are known as extra-intestinal manifestations - meaning they affect areas outside of your digestive system. 

Some of the extra-intestinal manifestations you might have are:

  • Joint pain
  • Sore or itchy skin
  • Sore eyes
  • Fatigue (feeling really tired)
  • Growing slowly/delayed puberty
  • Changes in weight
  • Mood changes

If you experience any symptoms, whether they are in your digestive system or not, it’s important that you mention them to someone or your doctor or nurse so they can keep an eye on you.

Tummy pain in children with Crohn's disease

Tummy pain is a common symptom for people with Crohn’s disease. The pain can come and go and it can feel different to everybody and happen in different places.

Some of the reasons why you might get tummy pain when you have Crohn’s disease are:

  • Inflammation: When you digestive system is inflamed (sore) this can cause pain
  • Diarrhoea: If your Crohn’s disease causes you to have diarrhoea this can make your bowels cramp which causes pain
  • Narrowing: Parts of your digestive system can become narrower if they are always inflamed from your Crohn’s disease and when you eat it can make it harder for food to get through, which can cause pain
  • Needing to poo: Needing a poo can sometimes cause your tummy to hurt
  • Bloating: If you are bloated or have trapped wind then this can cause pain. This can be caused by irritable bowel syndrome

If you get tummy pain you should speak to your doctor or nurse. They can explore to see if there’s something that is causing the pain which they can help you with.

Extreme tummy pain can be a sign of something more serious and you should ask your parents or carer to call the doctor immediately or take you to hospital to be checked over.


Fatigue in children with Crohn's disease

Fatigue is another word for being very tired. It’s common for children with Crohn’s disease to feel fatigued, which can stop you from doing some of the things that your friends do.

It can make you feel:

  • Like it’s difficult to move
  • Exhausted mentally and physically
  • Like you have no energy

There are many reasons why you could get fatigue. These include:

  • Anaemia: A condition caused by having low iron in your blood
  • Nutritional deficiencies: If you aren’t able to absorb your food properly due to your Crohn’s disease this can cause you to feel tired
  • Lack of sleep: The symptoms of Crohn’s disease or stress/anxiety can make it more difficult to sleep
  • Active Crohn’s disease: If your Crohn’s disease is active then your body will be working hard to try to fix itself and this can make you tired

If you think you have fatigue you should tell your doctor or nurse. They can do some tests to see if it’s caused by something that they can treat or help you with.

Diarrhoea in children with Crohn's disease

Diarrhoea is a common symptom for children who have Crohn's disease in the lower part of their digestive system. Having diarrhoea means you need to poo more often and the poo is loose and watery. You might also feel an urgency to go to the toilet - meaning you have to rush to get to the toilet.

Diarrhoea from your Crohn’s disease may happen because your intestines are damaged making it hard for your body to absorb water from your poo to make it more solid. It could also be a side effect of some of the medications you are taking.

If you do experience an increase in the number of times you are going to the toilet for a poo you should tell your doctor, nurse or talk to an adult you trust. The diarrhoea could be a sign that you are having a flare of your Crohn’s disease and you may need extra treatment.

However, diarrhoea won’t always be caused by your Crohn’s disease. Some other things that can cause diarrhoea are:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Diet or food intolerances
  • A tummy bug or infection

To check the reason for your diarrhoea your doctor will probably do a stool test. They will look to see if there are signs of an infection or an increase in calprotectin (a substance made when inflammation increases). Higher calprotectin levels could mean your Crohn’s disease is active.

Blood and mucous in children with Crohn's disease

Blood and mucous in poo is especially common if you have Crohn's disease in your colon and/or rectum.

Mucous is a jelly-like substance that is made in your colon. It helps protect the bowel and also makes it slippery so that it’s easier for poo to travel through it. When your bowel becomes inflamed this can cause more mucous to be made to help protect the bowel. This inflammation can be caused by an infection, but it can also be caused by Crohn’s disease. 

Mucous leaves your body through your bottom and this extra mucous may be visible in your poo, or you may pass just mucous.

You may also pass blood through your bottom when you go to the toilet. Inflammation which damages the lining of your intestines can cause it to bleed.

It can be alarming to see blood and mucous in your poo and if you do see it then it’s important to tell your doctor. The aim of your treatment is to stop the inflammation from your Crohn’s disease, which will stop the blood and mucous.

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