Gastroparesis Awareness: Recognizing Gastroparesis in Your Child

August is gastroparesis awareness month, and I didn’t want to let the month pass without talking about our experience with gastroparesis. It took many months and a lot of different symptoms before the gastroenterologist diagnosed my three-year-old son with gastroparesis. One of the reasons it took so long is because it’s not that common at his age. After I learned of the diagnosis, I joined support groups focusing on gastroparesis and it became clear that this disease is uncommon in children and there’s really no information out there for parents like me. Most information I could find was for adults, and I learned that this disease is very different for the two age groups. 

You can read all about John’s initial symptoms and what led up to his diagnosis in my post “Mom Guilt”. After John completed a 10-day regimen of the antibiotic erythromycin, he was a different child. We realized he was having more symptoms than we thought and I wanted to share those for anyone wondering what gastroparesis may look like in their young child: 

  • He would complain that he felt like food was stuck and he would often pound on his chest to help the food go down.
  • He would have coughing fits during or after eating.
  • He would complain that food is coming up and going back down.
  • He would drink constantly with his meals, sometimes taking a sip of water after every bite.
  • He never left any food on his plate, always eating everything in front of him. Once he was feeling better, he could actually tell he was full and stopped eating even if he had food left. 
  • He complained of stomachaches, but there was no pattern to when this would happen or a clear answer on how to avoid the problem.
  • His stomach was always distended and hard by the end of the night.

While I’m sure symptoms will differ for every child that has gastroparesis, this is a good starting point for any parent looking for more information. I’m starting to suspect that John is suffering from gastroparesis again, which the doctor said could happen. He does have a few of the symptoms above, and he has been constipated, which he’s never had a problem with before. This proves that with each occurrence there could be varying symptoms in the same child. If he continues to show signs of gastroparesis, we will start another round of antibiotics. I’m just thankful at this point that we have a diagnosis and we know how to help him. He is a happy little boy and he hasn’t let this change him and the joy he finds in life.