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Pediatric Pancreatitis: When A Child’s “Stomachache” Is Serious

While a 24-hour virus can cause symptoms of nausea, stomachaches, and a fever; pancreatitis can offer these similar signs as well. Acute and chronic pancreatitis is generally a condition that affects adults; however, children can develop the illness as well, although it is less frequent.

Causes Of Pancreatitis In Children

Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed. While the main factors for this condition in adults includes gallstones and excessive alcohol consumption, the reason it occurs in children is only known half of the time. Acute pancreatitis, pancreas inflammation that is short-lived and comes on quickly, can develop in children due to a viral infection, medications, or trauma; meanwhile, chronic pancreatitis, which is ongoing pancreas inflammation, might occur in kids due to congenital abnormalities within their body’s pancreatic duct or genetic defects. While it is uncommon, two genetic defects linked to the condition in children include: trypsin and cystic fibrosis.

Signs & Symptoms In Children

Should your child complain of constant upper stomach pains – often to the left in the middle, and at times a consistent pain in the back – this could provide a signal that your kiddo is dealing with much more than just a stomachache or the flu. Pancreatitis can be very painful for kids, and this intense discomfort will be accompanied by vomiting and/or nausea. It’s important to note that diarrhea is not a symptom of pancreatitis.

Diagnosis & Treatment

The harsh reality is this illness can be very challenging to diagnose; however, blood tests can be conducted and offer an insight as to whether or not your child has pancreatitis. An ultrasound is sometimes used as well, and depending on the circumstances, a CT scan or MRI could be offered to make the determination.

Once diagnosed, a doctor may refer you to a pediatric gastroenterologist to help with treatment options. If your child is dealing with acute pancreatitis, pain management strategies will be sought, as well as the rest of the pancreas to correct fluid loss via avoiding an oral diet. Once your child’s nausea and pain gets better, a feeding tube might be used, or oral nutrition might be re-introduced. If pancreatitis flare ups become more frequent, a low-fat diet may be suggested to decrease recurrence.

Cleveland Clinic reported that if attacks occur more frequently, the pain just may be too unbearable for your child to deal with. As such, intense therapies including pancreas removal and injection of a pediatric patient’s own insulin-making cells will be taken from their pancreas and placed to their liver to help.

The key to diagnosis and treatment is being tuned into your child’s symptoms, as early on as possible.