Gastroenterology doctors (gastroenterologists or GI doctors) are healthcare providers who diagnose and treat problems with the stomach, intestines, and the rest of the digestive tract. Pediatric gastroenterologists diagnose and treat these sorts of problems specifically in children. So, how do you know that your child should see a pediatric gastroenterologist? Here are some key signs to look out for.
Frequent bouts of constipation
It's fairly normal for children to become constipated on occasion. This may happen after they eat too much of a certain food, or after they are under stress for a period of time. If your child seems to be getting constipated more often, though, you may want to take them to a GI specialist. They could be suffering from a lack of intestinal motility, food sensitivity, or in rare cases, a tumor or growth. If nothing else, the GI doctor may recommend some dietary changes that can ease constipation or help prevent future bouts of it.
Persistent loose stools
Diarrhea and loose stools are something else that most kids deal with on occasion. However, if your child is developing these symptoms more than "on occasion," then you should take them to a GI specialist. This is usually a symptom of a bigger underlying problem, such as IBS or celiac disease. Plus, untreated and persistent diarrhea can leave your child prone to dehydration and nutrient deficiencies. So even if it does not have a serious cause, it is not an issue you want to ignore.
Complaints of stomach pain
When your child complains of stomach pain, it is hard to know exactly how serious it is. They could just have gas cramps, but they could also have a more serious condition, such as Crohn's disease or appendicitis. It's best to take extra precautions and to take your child to a GI specialist if they complain of stomach pain on a regular basis. It's better to learn that the explanation was just gas or too much candy than it is to learn, several years later, that your child has actually been dealing with a GI disease this whole time.
If your child struggles with any of the issues above, make an appointment with a GI specialist sooner rather than later. These doctors are experts at knowing what tests are most needed and what could be ailing your child. You might find out that nothing serious is wrong, but you're always better safe than sorry when it comes to GI health.