Your healthy child starts complaining of nausea and then starts vomiting. She cannot keep any fluids down and is starting to feel feverish. Is it a 24-hour stomach bug or something more?
The pancreas is an organ that is located just behind the stomach.
The job of the pancreas is to produce enzymes or “juices” that help digest the food we eat. The pancreas also makes two hormones, insulin and glucagon, that help control our blood sugar. These enzymes and hormones are made in the pancreas and then excreted through ducts into the first part of the small intestine. Once in the small intestine, the enzymes and hormones become “active” and start working.
The Healthy Pancreas:
- Makes enzymes and hormones that are excreted into the small intestine and then become active
The Diseased Pancreas:
- The pancreas enzymes and hormones are activated inside the pancreas and start to attack and destroy the pancreas itself causing inflammation of the pancreas otherwise known as pancreatitis
Symptoms of Pancreatitis:
- Upper belly pain
- Belly pain that travels from the front to the back
- Belly pain that is worse with eating
- Belly distension
Pancreatitis Symptoms vs. Symptoms from a Stomach Virus:
- Pancreatitis causes severe pain to the point that your child may not want to stand or sit upright
- Pancreatitis pain worsens over a period of a few days whereas pain from a stomach virus starts to improve
- Pancreatitis can cause back or shoulder pain versus a stomach virus causing pain in the belly
- Pancreatitis causes persistent vomiting which increases over the first few days and with a stomach virus the vomiting usually improves or stops over a few days
Causes of Pancreatitis:
- Traumatic Injury to the Abdomen
- Anatomical Abnormalities of the Ducts of the Pancreas or Liver
- Excess Fat in the Blood (hyperlipidemia)
How is the Diagnosis of Pancreatitis Made?
- Blood test to check the pancreas enzyme levels-amylase and lipase
- Abdominal ultrasound to visualize the pancreas
- Abdominal computer tomography (CT) may be needed in some cases
What is the Treatment for Pancreatitis:
- Allow the pancreas to rest by giving no food or liquid by mouth
- Aggressive intravenous fluids (IV) to hydrate the body
- Medications for pain control
Fortunately, most children with pancreatitis recover within 1 week and can resume eating and drinking with no permanent damage to the pancreas. However, some children can develop a reoccurrence or complication that requires further medical management. Therefore, it is important to recognize the symptoms early and consult with your child’s doctor.