Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and one in four people diagnosed are in their 20s. It’s a chronic issue that lasts for life. The lining of the digestive tract becomes inflamed, which leads to abdominal pain, malnutrition, and fatigue. It can make daily life difficult, especially for those in emergency services.
The causes of this disease include a compromised immune system, diet, stress, genetics, and the environment. While there’s no direct research between Crohn’s disease and first responder work, it’s these very risk factors that this line of work is exposed to.
Chronic inflammation & poor lifestyle choices
Chronic inflammation is the main characteristic of Crohn’s disease. When it reaches this level, body tissues are at risk of permanent damage. This is why it’s important not to assume that Crohn’s is just a state of discomfort.
One of the causes of inflammation is having a poor immune system. This condition is also connected to eating a high-fat diet, smoking, and being overweight – all of which are common problems for first responders.
‘First responder stress’ is also very real, putting emergency service workers at risk for high blood pressure, destructive stress hormones, heart problems, PTSD, and unhealthy coping tools (like binge eating).
Looking at the risk factors alone, those in emergency work need to pay attention to Crohn’s disease, especially the young.
Early symptoms of Crohn’s include frequent cramps, ongoing abdominal pain, diarrhoea, bloody stools, and unexplained weight loss. But the issues aren’t isolated to ‘that’ area. Further problems that can arise include eye pain, fever, joint inflammation, red rashes, and mouth sores.
These symptoms aren’t easy to explain to coworkers. It can also be an issue out on the road, when interacting with community members. At a formative time like the 20s, this can be extremely traumatic.
A ‘we don’t talk about that’ culture
For the male-dominated emergency services workforce, speaking up about Crohn’s disease isn’t easy. Given that it usually starts between the ages of 15 to 25, it’s harder for a young recruit to be open about a condition of this nature. The environment isn’t conducive to open discussions, especially when they relate to more private parts of the body.
But this is a disease that demands your attention and can’t be ignored.
For the police officer, firefighter or paramedic who has to drop everything in emergency situations, Crohn’s disease can become problematic. The persistent need to use the bathroom, abdominal pain and fatigue can impact a worker’s performance. It can also be quickly shrugged off by colleagues as ‘not important’, with responses like “you can hold it mate.”
It’s important to confide in the people you trust, but the great part of Crohn’s disease is it can be managed. Whether it’s medications, self-care through diet, reducing stress or in severe cases, surgery, Crohn’s is a disease that can be handled.
For Crohn’s sufferers, the quality of health insurance matters
Being an Emergency Services Health member makes this all possible. It’s because the health insurance coverage exists only for those in emergency services (and their families). Emergency Services Health understands the unique health needs of the community, because we’ve been looking after them for over 85 years. Whether you’re already a member, or interested in becoming one, call us to find out how to get the most out of our cover and benefits. We’re here to help.
Crohn’s or no Crohn’s, you deserve health insurance cover that you can actually use – not just when there’s an emergency.
Please note: some articles on this website are compiled from material obtained externally. Although we make every effort to ensure information is correct at the time of publication, we accept no responsibility for its accuracy. Health-related articles are intended for general information only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your doctor. The views expressed in articles are not necessarily those of Emergency Services Health.