Certain things can trigger a flare, including:
- Being under a lot of stress, which can worsen symptoms such as cramping and diarrhea
- Not taking medication for IBD as directed
- Taking medications such as antibiotics, ibuprofen and aspirin
- Gastrointestinal infection
- Seasonal changes
How you respond to a flare can influence the severity of symptoms and how long they last. Following the guidelines below can help.
Talk to your child’s doctor. Call your child’s doctor at the first sign of serious symptoms. The doctor may recommend “rescue medicines” − a short course of strong medications − to treat the flare. The doctor also can help identify why the flare occurred, and whether any changes are needed to your child’s treatment plan.
Help your child stay hydrated, well rested and active. Hydration is always important for children with IBD, but especially for those who are experiencing diarrhea. Offer water and sports drinks with electrolytes, but avoid high-sugar drinks such as soda or juice, which can worsen symptoms. Aim for at least 64 ounces of fluid a day.
Rest will help your child heal more quickly. But activity is important too, since it can help minimize the joint stiffness that is sometimes associated with IBD.
Maintain good nutrition. Easy-to-digest foods can help your child’s bowel recover during a flare. Your child’s doctor may suggest a protein or nutritional shake during this time.
Be careful with pain medications. Some over-the-counter pain medications can make IBD symptoms worse. If your child experiences joint pain during a flare, try heat therapy, gentle massage and rest instead of anti-inflammatory medications.
Manage skin irritation and ulcers. If your child has frequent diarrhea during a flare, be sure to keep the anal area as clean and dry as possible. A zinc oxide-based topical ointment can protect the skin if it isn’t already broken. If the skin is broken, call your child’s doctor for guidance.
Practice good oral hygiene. Flossing and brushing help prevent painful mouth ulcers during a flare. If your child has a mouth ulcer that does not heal in 10 to 14 days, ask the doctor for help.