Seasonal Association of Pediatric Functional Abdominal Pain Disorders and Anxiety

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Abstract

Objectives:

Abdominal pain–related pediatric functional gastrointestinal disorders (AP-FGIDs) are defined by abdominal discomfort or pain that may provide obstacles to everyday activities, such as school attendance. It has been reported that AP-FGID symptoms may be reduced in summer, but it is unclear what drives this seasonal variation. This pilot study aimed to explore whether the seasonal variation in AP-FGID symptoms could be explained by various psychological and behavioral factors.

Methods:

Parents of children with AP-FGID symptoms completed online questionnaires on symptoms, anxiety, parental responses to pain, sleep, diet, and physical activity once during spring months and again in the summer months.

Results:

In a sample of 34 participants who completed both questionnaires, 22 reported improvements during the summer months. These participants reported a significantly higher seasonal decrease in anxiety than participants whose children's symptoms did not improve from spring to summer (mean decrease 2.21 vs 0.08, P = 0.017). Both groups reported equal improvements in sleep and decreased stress from spring to summer. Neither group experienced statistically significant seasonal change in physical activity or fruit, vegetables, dairy, or caffeine consumption.

Conclusions:

This study suggests that amelioration of gastrointestinal symptoms in pediatric patients with AP-FGID during summer months is associated with amelioration of anxiety in the same time period. It is not yet clear whether decreased anxiety is the cause or effect of decreased AP-FGID symptoms.

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