Prospective Study of Gastrointestinal Symptoms in School Children of South America

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Abstract

Objectives:

The aim of the study was to establish the prevalence of abdominal pain (AP) in school children in Pasto (Colombia) and determine the effect of AP on their daily activities; and compare the prevalence of AP and other gastrointestinal symptoms between school children from Pasto and Chicago.

Methods:

Fourth- and fifth-grade students from a public school and a private school in Colombia were invited to participate in a prospective study using the same methods and questionnaires (Spanish version) as a previous study conducted in Chicago schools. Children completed weekly confidential surveys for 8 consecutive weeks.

Results:

A total of 332 children participated in the study (40% girls, mean age 9.97 years, median 10, range 8–12 years): public school (288), private school (44). A total of 2425 surveys were analyzed. Out of 2656 possible weekly surveys (332 children × 8 weeks), 91.3% were completed. Overall weekly prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms: AP (39%), nausea (29.5%), constipation (14%), diarrhea (10.5%), vomiting (9%). Children with AP reported interference with activities: gym (21.9%), school (17.3%), difficulty sleeping (13.7%), and social activities (12.6%). Out of all children, 8.4% sought medical attention for AP during the study period.

Conclusions:

Gastrointestinal symptoms are common in school-aged children in Colombia and interfere with both daily activities and school attendance. The prevalence of AP, diarrhea, and vomiting found in the present study was similar to published prevalence of American children using similar methods.

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