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The Inflammatory Bowel Disease content has been developed by CHEO Inflammatory Bowel Disease Centre in partnership with CANImmunize.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

If your child is living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that is, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, you’re not alone. Approximately 1 in 150 Canadians have IBD, including approximately 3000 children under 16 years old. Between learning about your child’s disease, seeing different healthcare providers, and following up on treatment plans, having a child with a chronic condition is not easy. Keeping track of your child’s immunizations on top of everything else is another challenge for parents of children with IBD. CANImmunize is a tool you can use to help you keep track of immunization schedules, and which is another important aspect of your child’s health.

IBD is characterized by inflammation of the intestines generated by the immune system. As such, many of the medications used to treat children with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis are designed to stop the active inflammation. However, by doing so, the immune system’s response that causes inflammation in the intestines may also be diminished. While stopping intestinal inflammation is important to manage your child’s symptoms and prevent serious complications from IBD Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, it can also reduce their ability to fight off infections, including vaccine-preventable diseases. Therefore, getting vaccinated is crucial for children living with IBD. It is one of the safest and most effective ways to prevent infections.

If your child is NOT RECEIVING medications that impact the immune system, then using the same routine immunization schedule as children without IBD is recommended.

If your child WILL REQUIRE treatments affecting the immune system, your doctor may recommend additional helpful immunizations while it is safe to receive them.

If your child IS ALREADY RECEIVING treatments affecting the immune system, it is recommended that they follow the routine immunization schedule but do not receive live vaccines. Live vaccines include the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), varicella (chicken pox), and intranasal influenza vaccines. Additional vaccinations may be recommended to prevent serious infections. Vaccination requirements can vary depending on your child’s medications and disease status, so be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about what’s best for them and when best to receive them.

If your child is not already up-to-date with their immunizations, you should discuss timing of immunizations with your healthcare provider. Some treatments used to treat your child’s IBD may suppress the body’s response to immunizations, so your doctor may ask you to wait before immunizing. On the other hand, the sooner immunity against vaccine-preventable diseases is achieved, the lower the risk your child will catch one of a preventable infection.

Yes. Canadian guidelines recommend that children with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis receive the flu vaccine every year, especially if they are on medications affecting the immune system. Recent research has shown that the flu shot does not cause flares of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, but getting a viral infection may contribute to flares of IBD.

If your child has recently been diagnosed, we encourage you to discuss their immunization needs with your gastroenterologist. Taking initiative and an active role in your child’s health ensures they receive the best possible care!

Last updated: 01/11/2018

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