As summer draws to an end many of us are preparing to go back to school or send our children back to school. For those suffering with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), this can mean big challenges, like worrying about making it on time when you have a particularly tough morning in the bathroom, or being stuck on the school bus in rush hour traffic with nowhere to go. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard IBS patients telling me how they used to have panic attacks when stuck in traffic.
Back to School time is a good time to prepare for dealing with IBS. Digestive problems, including IBS, can cause embarrassment, missed classes, depressed grades and achievement, and even require some students to drop out.
Consider Andrew, a patient at the IBS Treatment Center. Andrew was a normal healthy teenager. He and his older brothers played basketball, had active social lives, and did well in school. But when Andrew started having digestive problems things slowly but consistently spiraled out of control. Eventually Andrew saw no other choice but to give up basketball because he couldn’t make it through practice. Andrew had to give up something he really loved. And to top it off, his grades started dropping significantly and he became depressed. His parents were extremely concerned.
Andrew’s story is not unusual for a patient with IBS. But even though IBS affects millions of children and is the second most common reason that adults miss work, the taboo over conversation about one’s digestion means that many children and adults are suffering in silence from the effects of untreated IBS.
Ideally, the most effective solution is to get treatment that ends IBS. But if you haven’t found the right place to do that and a cure has eluded you, here are THREE SECRETS for dealing with IBS while in school.
#1 Be Prepared
Plan ahead. This may require working with teachers and administrators to get the student permission to run to the restroom whenever they need to do so.
Providing simple meals for school time may also help. Have over-the-counter medicines constantly available to help with symptoms. For example, put anti-diarrheal medicine in the student’s desk and in their backpack. Younger children may need help or special school permissions for medication.
2# Communicate Frequently with Teachers
Students with IBS often miss classes. Extra effort is usually required to make sure the student gets all the information about what was covered in class, assignments, etc. Close coordination with instructors can make this easier and less embarrassing for your child.
#3 Get Creative!
If a student’s IBS is going to interfere with school, it is worth considering this when determining what school to attend, which classes to take, and whether or not to home school or choose online educational options.
Primary and secondary schools vary quite a bit in how well they accommodate students with chronic health problems so find out what options are available. You may even qualify for a formal accommodation program.
The REAL SECRET is that almost any student can end their IBS and get back to school free from the problems it causes.
Andrew’s school career was on the road to failure before he got effective treatment for his IBS. When he did, his life improved dramatically. His grades improved, his depression cleared and he returned to playing sports. His college dreams were re-energized and he was free to choose the school that was right for him, not one that could deal with his condition.
Dr. Wangen is the founder and medical director of the IBS Treatment Center, the award winning author of two books, and a nationally recognized speaker on digestive disorders. He has been on ABC, NBC, and Fox as well as public radio, and was named one of Seattle’s Top Doctors by Seattle Magazine.