School and IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can occur at any age, and it often begins during the teen years or early adulthood.1 With the painful and disruptive symptoms common to IBS, many IBS sufferers report missing school due to their symptoms, including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas and abdominal pain.2
IBS symptoms are often worse in the morning and at bedtime, especially in children, because these are stressful times for a child.3Stress is a common trigger for IBS at any age, and patients with IBS that is triggered by stress can benefit from learning stress management techniques, getting counseling, and getting regular physical activity.4,5 When IBS symptoms flare in the morning, many people with IBS have to change their schedule. In a recent survey of Americans with IBS, 28% of sufferers report their symptoms made them arrive late for school or work or leave early.2
Managing IBS and School
Dealing with the frequent symptoms IBS can be frustrating and causes many IBS sufferers to miss out on activities, including school. The fluctuating nature of the disease can also make IBS patients feel a loss of control. Taking a proactive approach to school and how to manage IBS symptoms can provide more of a sense of control.
Students may feel anxiety about having a flare of their IBS symptoms while at school. In addition, school can cause stress, which in turn may trigger additional symptoms. The following strategies can help manage these stressors and manage IBS while at school:
- Talk to your teachers. Let your teachers know about your IBS and that you may need to take frequent breaks to visit the bathroom. They are more likely to understand and be supportive if they are aware of your condition ahead of time. In addition, they can help you catch up from absences.
- Talk to the school counselor and nurse. Most schools have a counselor that can be helpful in navigating the school as well as being another source of support for you. The nurse can also be an ally, and these school professionals may also be able to allow you to use their bathroom for more privacy.
- Map out bathrooms. Know where the bathrooms are on campus before you need them.
- Have medication on hand. Have a remedy kit in your backpack or locker with any medications or a change of clothes available if your symptoms flare up. Some schools require the medications to be stored at the nurse’s office.
- Maintain healthy diet. Avoid foods and beverages that are known triggers for your IBS symptoms.
- Incorporate stress management techniques. Deep breathing, taking a walk outside, and using visualization can all help you reduce your stress, which can help you manage your IBS symptoms.
- Initiate a 504 Plan. For students in kindergarten through 12th grade, a 504 plan can be initiated by parents or teachers to outline accommodations due to chronic illness like IBS. Students may be able to take tests in a separate room and have more access to bathrooms or snacks.6