Support for Ulcerative Colitis in Children

A team of specialists at the Pediatric Gastroenterology Program at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone provides ongoing support to children with ulcerative colitis. They work with experts at the Sala Institute for Child and Family Centered Care to provide wellness programs and nutritional and psychological support to children receiving treatment for ulcerative colitis.

Bowel Rest

Sometimes, a doctor recommends bowel “rest,” meaning only clear liquids may be taken by mouth. This reduces inflammation, allowing the intestines to heal. Nutrition and medicine may be provided through an intravenous catheter, which is inserted into a vein in the arm. This may be provided in the hospital or, sometimes, at home.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Children with ulcerative colitis often require frequent visits to the bathroom, so it’s important to schedule more time for bathroom breaks during your child’s daily activities. It can be helpful to determine the location of restrooms at playgrounds, stores, and other people’s homes prior to any activity. You may wish to pack spare clothing and moist wipes for your child.

School Support

Frequent absences from school due to illness, doctor’s appointments, and surgery can interfere with a child’s academic performance.

You may consider contacting officials at your child’s school to obtain a 504 plan, which provides special accommodation for your child at school and in relation to school work. This may include additional time allotted for bathroom visits and to make up homework assignments and tests.

Psychological Support

Living with ulcerative colitis can take an emotional toll on children and their families. Because this condition often involves flare-ups between periods of remission, maintaining a regular schedule at school and in your child’s activities can be challenging.

Our psychologists and social workers offer psychological and emotional support. Support services also include counseling to help children and siblings prepare for staying at home for a period of time or visiting the hospital.

Nutrition

Children with ulcerative colitis often experience nutritional deficiencies, because the digestive system cannot absorb the correct amount of vitamins and minerals from food. This can lead to osteoporosis and low bone mass, joint pain, and slow growth.

Our nutritionists create a dietary plan that helps to ensure your child consumes the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals. They can also recommend vitamin supplements to help meet nutritional requirements.

They may recommend that your child eat small amounts of food throughout the day instead of three main meals, avoid fatty or greasy foods, and reduce intake of high fiber foods, such as beans and popcorn.

Immunizations

Some medications that are used to treat children with ulcerative colitis can suppress the immune system. As a result, your child’s doctor may recommend a customized immunization schedule for standard childhood vaccinations, such as the polio, chickenpox, and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines.

Doctors may also recommend that children with ulcerative colitis receive immunizations for pneumonia, shingles, and the flu. In addition, they may suggest that adolescents with this condition are vaccinated against meningitis, hepatitis B, and human papillomavirus (HPV).

These immunizations are typically administered after age 10.

Wellness Programs

Surgery for ulcerative colitis can cause stress for children and their families. Our experts provide children, their siblings, and their parents with integrative health therapies that can help to reduce levels of stress and improve overall wellbeing. These include art therapy, pet therapy, and yoga.

Genetic Counseling

Family members of a child with ulcerative colitis may be at risk for developing this chronic condition. At NYU Langone, genetic counselors are available to discuss this risk, answer questions, and provide support.

Screening for Colorectal Cancer

After a child has ulcerative colitis for eight or more years—particularly when the entire colon is involved—the doctor may recommend a screening colonoscopy for colorectal cancer every one to two years. This is because having colitis may increase your child’s risk for dysplasia, a precancerous condition that can lead to colorectal cancer.

A colonoscopy allows the gastroenterologist to view the inside of the colon and rectum to identify dysplasia. During this screening exam, doctors can remove dysplasia they find in a procedure called a biopsy. Tissue samples are sent to a laboratory for further analysis. The goal is to detect cancer early, at its most curable stage.

Eye Examinations

Some children with ulcerative colitis experience eye disorders that cause painful inflammation, dry eyes, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, redness, tenderness, night blindness, or glaucoma.

The doctor may refer your child to an ophthalmologist for further examination of his or her eyes. If necessary, the specialist can manage these symptoms with medication.

Joint Pain Management

Ulcerative colitis can cause joint pain without swelling, known as arthralgia, and joint pain with swelling, known as arthritis. Both can affect joints such as the knees and knuckles.

A physical therapist may recommend the use of moist heat, range-of-motion exercises, or rest to manage the pain associated with arthritis or arthralgia.

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