Day 6 - Learning ~ Special Section for Children with IBS

(See full info on Children and Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

Doctors' visits and medical options for IBS

It is really most important to see a doctor for your initial diagnosis. Once it's established that you do in fact have plain old Irritable Bowel Syndrome BS and nothing else, you may well have minimal follow-up visits with your doctor, simply because there is not much medical help available for the disorder. I saw a gastroenterologist once for my initial diagnosis while still a child, and it was more than a decade later before I needed a follow-up visit and tests. In the meantime my regular family physicians simply continued my prescription anti-spasmodics without any problems.

However, anytime you have new concerns about your condition, questions about prescription medications, or if you suddenly experience different symptoms, it's time to once again visit a doctor. We'll be following up further with your doctor in Month 4.

Special Section for Children with IBS

As a parent, you have to walk a fine line when your child visits a doctor for GI tract problems. By necessity you must be intimately involved with your child's health care and deal with their doctors first-hand, but the normal way you'd go about this may be in direct conflict with how your child wishes to handle the situation.

Children are likely have a very strong preference in one of two ways. They may insist that you stay right next to them throughout the examination and every single diagnostic test that follows, and in this case it's easy to comply. However, your child may instead be much more comfortable talking alone with the doctor and having you out of the room. As well as you think you know your child it's best to not make an assumption here (don't even judge from past doctor's visits – Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be a whole different ballgame).

It's a good idea to casually ask children if they'd rather you stayed in the waiting room when they see their doctor, and make it clear that you'll understand how they feel (and won't be hurt) if they say yes. It may be difficult to even get a straight answer from your children in this matter. They may be so embarrassed and just plain exhausted by Irritable Bowel Syndrome that they'll give whatever answer they think will make you drop the subject as quickly as possible. So approach them at a quiet, low-key time when there's no one else around to overhear, give them a hug, ask them what they'd like your role to be when they see the doctor, and make it clear that you will let them call the shots here. Anything that can be done to minimize the trauma of the experience will help children tremendously. To them, talking to a doctor at all is likely to be much scarier than it is for an adult. To talk about bowel movements with a doctor is truly a nightmare. Whatever steps you can take to make things emotionally easier will earn you your child's undying gratitude.

I really can't stress enough how embarrassing Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be to a child, and having to describe their symptoms in detail to a total stranger while sitting half-naked in a paper gown is very traumatic. For me, having my parents with me in that situation just compounded my humiliation. They were very kind, concerned, and supportive, but their presence took away any last shred of privacy I had left in dealing with the problem. Even as a teenager I was much more comfortable meeting with my doctor and enduring the diagnostic tests alone, though I very much wanted my parents right outside in the waiting room the entire time. Fortunately, they were very understanding in this matter, and helped minimize the stress of the situation for me tremendously. They simply met with the doctor alone when I was through. In this way they stayed well-informed and I felt a little less stripped of all dignity by the whole ordeal.

From the vantage point of an adult, my feelings as a child seem inexplicable and frankly rather strange. Nowadays, I couldn't care less if my parents were with me at the doctor's, and their presence certainly wouldn't seem to be an invasion of privacy but a supportive presence. However, this was definitely not how I felt as a child, and my feelings then, no matter how odd they seem today, were very real. I remember the heat of them quite vividly, and I remain thankful that my parents treated them as legitimate.

Any good doctor will respect children's feelings as well, and make the extra effort necessary to put them at ease. You may want to visit a pediatric gastroenterologist, as a doctor who deals exclusively with children should be more likely to understand their quirks and accommodate them. To this day I am grateful to the doctor who finally diagnosed me at age 16, as he requested on his own that my parents wait outside the examining room, and this immediately set me at ease. (In hindsight his actions make me suspect he'd had his share of young patients and knew from experience just how to successfully deal with them). He then told me straight-out that every patient he sees feels embarrassed to be there, and that most people are very reluctant to discuss the type of health problems he deals with every single day. He made it clear that the whole topic was very routine to him, that I had nothing to be embarrassed about, that everything I told him he would take seriously, and he then stressed that he really needed to get detailed information from me or he couldn't help. He asked me very specific, yes-or-no questions to "warm me up" to the topic before expecting me to give full-blown descriptions of my attacks. This was the perfect approach for him to take with me, and your child's doctor should strive to find an approach that works equally well.


Click here to continue reading First Year: Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

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