Background and Aims: Functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) are common in children. Abdominal pain (AP) is the most common gastrointestinal (GI) symptom in children. The severity of AP drives medical consultations and quality of life in adult patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Thirty-eight percent of 8- to 15-year-old schoolchildren report AP weekly with 24% of those children reporting persistence of AP >8 weeks. Despite the high prevalence of AP, only 2% of school children seek medical attention for AP. Lack of parental knowledge on their child's symptoms may constitute one of the factors affecting the low ratio of consultation in children reporting AP. The aim was to assess parental reports of AP symptoms in a population of healthy community children.
Methods: Data of 5 studies with identical methodology to assess GI symptoms in children with celiac disease (CD), cow's milk allergy (CMA), pyloric stenosis (PS), Henoch-Schönlein purpura (HSP), and stem cell transplant (SC) and their healthy siblings were reviewed: a phone questionnaire on GI symptoms and Pediatric Gastrointestinal Symptoms Rome III version questionnaire (QPGS-RIII). Inclusion criteria were healthy children 4 to 18 years of age with a sibling previously diagnosed with CD, CMA, PS, HSP, or SC.
Results: Data on 246 healthy children, mean age (9.8 years, range 3–24, 112 girls) were obtained. Parents reported presence of AP in the last 8 weeks before the telephone contact in 20 (8.1%) children (age range 4–18 years, 11 girls). There was no significant difference in AP prevalence between boys and girls (P = 0.64). Six children (2.4%) met QPGS-RIII diagnostic criteria for FGIDs: 3 functional abdominal pain (FAP) and 3 IBS.
Conclusions: AP was common in community children. FAP was the most common FGID among healthy community children. The prevalence of AP by parental report is lower than the previously published prevalence of AP reported by children. Lack of awareness of children's symptoms may play a role in the low ratio of consultation for AP in symptomatic children. Future prospective studies should confirm our findings and investigate the factors influencing the medical consultation decision including parental awareness of children's symptoms.