The following is a summary of “Characterizing the Pain Experience of Children With Acute Gastroenteritis Based on Identified Pathogens,” published in the February 2023 issue of Gastroenterology and Nutrition by Ma, et al.

Even though pain is a typical symptom of acute gastroenteritis (AGE), little was known regarding the intensity linked to particular enteropathogens. Therefore, for a study, researchers aimed to investigate the relationship between the degree of pain and certain enteropathogens in children with AGE.

At two pediatric emergency rooms (EDs), participants were proactively recruited by the Alberta Provincial Pediatric Enteric Infection Team (December 2014–August 2018). The 11-point Verbal Numerical Rating Scale was used to assess pain in children and/or caregivers.

The median age of the 2,686 participants they recruited—46.8% (n = 1,256) women—was 20.1 months (interquartile range 10.3, 45.3). The mean greatest pain ratings were 5.5 (SD 3.0) in the 24 hours before the ED visit and 4.2 (SD 2.9) in the ED, respectively. Prior to going to the ED, the mean greatest pain levels were 6.6 (SD 2.5) with bacterial detection, compared to 5.5 (SD 2.9) for a single virus and 5.5 (SD 3.1) for negative stool tests. The mean greatest pain levels in the ED were 5.5 (SD 2.7) when bacteria were found, compared to 4.1 (SD 2.9) for a single virus and 4.2 (SD 3.0) for negative stool tests. The number of bouts of diarrhea or vomiting in the previous 24 hours, older age, fever, illness duration, and respiratory symptoms were all linked with increased pain severity prior to the ED visit, but enteropathogen type was not.

Children with AGE often feel severe pain, especially if an enteric bacterial infection was present at the time of the episode. However, it seemed that older age and fever had more of an impact on children’s pain perceptions than etiologic pathogens did.