Working as a CMA (certified medical assistant) in Swedish Pediatric Gastroenterology, I have the responsibility and honor of taking care of children diagnosed with a variety of gastrointestinal problems, one of the most serious being Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). IBD is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic intestinal inflammation. Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis are the two main types of IBD, depending on the location and depth of inflammation in the gut.
As I work with the families of children diagnosed with IBD, I am constantly amazed at what a complicated job they have, balancing life between a chronic illness and the challenges of “normal childhood”.
As the school year gets off to a start, seeing how hectic life can become for most kids, I wanted to write down a few ways children with IBD might better empower themselves to gain control over their chronic disease:
- Get enough sleep, play time and stay hydrated.
- Stay active and do the things you like to do; dealing with IBD shouldn’t keep you from them. Doing things you enjoy doing will help reduce stress. Stress can cause a flare of IBD.
- Make sure you are up to date on all your vaccinations, especially the flu vaccine. Remember to avoid live-viral vaccines if you are on immunosuppressants. Talk to your gastroenterologist early if you have doubts!
- Be diligent about taking medications on time. Especially for children taking injections or infusions such as Humira or Remicade, make sure you stay on top of when they are due and mark the dates down on a calendar. Be proactive and aware of your schedule as much as possible.
- If you have to reschedule your Remicade infusion due to conflicts with school and other activities, remember getting it a few days earlier is generally preferable to later. When you take your medicine late, this leaves the door open for inflammation to start-up again!
- Follow your individual treatment plan to reduce the likelihood of flare ups. Talk to your gastroenterologist whenever you have questions. The more questions you ask, the better your doctor can help you.
These are general tips I’ve picked-up from months of interaction with families at Swedish Pediatric Specialty Care. Remember, you know your body better than anyone else. By staying organized, taking your medications on time, and asking the right questions, you can be in control of your own health and be an empowered patient.