Managing irritable bowel syndrome in children

Nurs Stand. 2016 Oct 12;31(7):42-52. doi: 10.7748/ns.2016.e10439.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common cause of non-organic recurrent abdominal pain in children. IBS is a clinical diagnosis, which is based on the Rome IV criteria for functional gastrointestinal disorders in children, as well as the patient's history. The diagnosis of IBS is established following the exclusion of organic causes of recurrent abdominal pain. Staggered investigations should be avoided because they might increase the child's and family's anxiety in the absence of an organic diagnosis. In most cases, providing a positive diagnosis of IBS and explaining the current understanding of the functional pathophysiology of the condition and management strategies gives reassurance to the child and their family. Management is based on dietary, pharmacological and biopsychosocial interventions. IBS can be a debilitating condition, with effects on activities of daily living, education and social interactions. Nurses working in various clinical settings will encounter children with IBS and have an important role in the management of children with this condition.

Keywords: Rome IV criteria; abdominal pain; bowel care; children; dietary intervention; gastroenterology; gastrointestinal disorders; irritable bowel syndrome; paediatrics.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / nursing*
  • United Kingdom