Stomach aches are among the most common childhood health issues. The trouble is, kids often don’t have the vocabulary to get specific about their digestive upsets. “Tummyache” can be the only word they come up with, whether the problem is nausea, stomach cramps, constipation, or diarrhea.
Ordinary tummy trouble
Common causes of stomach aches in kids:
- Allergies or intolerances to specific foods
- Stomach bugs
Kids can also suffer from food poisoning or have foods that disagree with them, including greasy foods or foods much spicier than they’re used to.
If your child seems to get an upset stomach when he eats specific foods, consider an elimination diet. Eliminate dairy products, wheat, and soy from your meals for a few days. Reintroduce these foods one at a time. If your child has no stomach ache until she starts drinking milk again, it’s possible that she’s lactose intolerant.
This casual approach should be followed by a visit with your child’s doctor. If you suspect a food intolerance, your doctor can help you make sure.
Serious stomach complaints
If diarrhea lasts more than a few days, it could be a sign of a serious disorder. Diarrhea, meaning loose and/or frequent stools, can be a sign of a stomach virus. However, if it lasts for a week or more, you should check with your child’s doctor.
Constipation is a common cause for stomach aches. Avoid constipation by serving high fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose breads with 3 or more grams of fiber and be sure to offer fresh or frozen produce at every meal. Make sure your child is active, too — kids need to run and play to keep their digestive systems in order. Sometimes, however, constipation needs treatment. If it persists for two weeks or more, see your pediatrician.
Abdominal pain that starts near the belly button and ends up in the lower right area of the abdomen, especially if your child also has a fever, can be appendicitis. Call your doctor immediately if you think your child might have appendicitis.
There are other diseases, such as Celiac disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, that can show up in kids. If your child seems to have stomach aches more often or more seriously than usual, it’s worth checking in with your pediatrician.
Kids may have nervous stomachs just as adults do. Anxiety and depression can affect the digestive system, and are correlated with IBS and stomach pains that can’t be explained by a disease.
This doesn’t mean that “it’s all in his head” or that your child should snap out of it. Stress can lead to real pain. Work with your pediatrician to help your child manage stress if that’s the source of the problem.