- Causes of stomachache in children
- When to see a doctor?
- Diagnosis of stomach pain
- Treatment for stomachache in children
- Taking care of your child at home
- Home remedies for stomach pain
- Foods to avoid during stomachache
- Preventing stomach pain in children
Stomach pain is one of the most common reasons for parents to take their children to a doctor. It is usually harmless, but sometimes it can be serious because a stomachache is a diverse condition, and can be the symptom of some other ailment.
Causes Of Stomach Pain In Children
It is often difficult to decipher the cause of an abdominal pain. Most of the times, they are less serious.
- Food allergy
- Lower abdominal pain due to constipation
- Gas formation
- Acid reflux or epigastric pain in the upper abdomen
- Stomach infection (or food poisoning) leading to either viral or bacterial infection
- Gut flu (gastroenteritis) can also be caused by a virus or bacteria, resulting in severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea
- An abdominal migraine causes pain in the stomach, nausea, and vomiting (3). It often happens due to the same triggers that cause migraine headaches
- Aerophagia or swallowing of air occurs when excessive air goes into the stomach and causes belching, stomach pain and heartburn (4)
- Non-medical reasons such as getting bitten by a poisonous insect; for example, children can get a stomachache when bitten by a black widow spider
If the pain does not subside even after 24 hours or gets worse, it could be an indication of something more serious.
Some more-serious reasons are listed below (5):
- Appendicitis, the inflammation of the appendix filled with pus, causes tremendous stomach pain (6)
- UTI or urinary tract infection
- Tumors can sometimes give severe stomach cramps
- Gallbladder stones, which are the hard deposits in the fluid of the gallbladder
- Stomach ulcer or sores that develop on the linings of the stomach or esophagus; especially in peptic ulcers, kids get stomach pain at nights
- Accidental poisoning or poisoning that may happen from touching, eating or inhaling something harmful (7)
- A hernia or the bulging of an organ through the tissues
- Inflammatory bowel disease, a collective term for chronic swelling of the digestive tract
- Intussusception, a medical condition in which the intestine folds and twists itself
- Swallowing some foreign object such as coins or beads
If the pain is not chronic or severe, you may not have to take the child to a doctor. However, this is not the case always.
When To See A Doctor?
Take your child to a healthcare professional if they have any of these symptoms (8):
- Pain continues for more than a week
- Acute pain that is moving from one side to another
- Pain getting worse or is intermittent
- Pain around the belly button or left side of the abdomen
- A temperature of 100oF
- Difficulty in breathing
- The child looks sweaty, sick and pale
- Bouts of vomiting for more than 12 hours
- Loss of appetite
- Blood in vomit
- Difficulty in passing urine
- Diarrhea lasting more than two days
- Skin rashes
- Weight loss
- Belly feels rigid or hard
- Any recent injury in the abdomen
- The doctor will diagnose the reason behind the stomach pain.
Diagnosis Of Stomach Pain
The doctor will first ascertain if the pain is due to some infection, food poisoning or allergy. In such cases, tests are not required. But if they suspect some serious ailment, they may suggest (9)
- Blood, urine test, and stool tests
- X-ray of the abdomen
- Review by a specialist
- A CT scan or computed tomography to check the internal organs
- Other specific tests as deemed fit by the doctor
The treatment for the pain depends on the underlying ailment.
Treatment For Stomachache In Children
Below are some medicines used to address the stomach pain resulting from various ailments. Note that you can use them only with your doctor’s approval/ prescription:
- Medicine with the compound Simethicone (Gas-X, Mylanta Gas) can help reduce pain from gas (10)
- Antacids like Pepcid and Zantac for acidity
- Stool softener in the case of constipation
- Medicines with compounds having loperamide (Imodium), bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) may alleviate cramping due to diarrhea (11)
- Aztreonam (Aztreo, Trezam, Azotum) for severe infections including UTI (12)
- Budesonide (Budvent Easecaps, Buovent) is a corticosteroid prescribed for inflammatory bowel disease (13), among other inflammations
- Camylofin (Anaspas, Anafortan, Carespas CP) for reducing pain due to gallbladder or kidney stones
- Doxycycline (Doxytop, Biodoxi, Microdox, Doxt) is a broad spectrum antibiotic prescribed for treating several bacterial infections (14)
- Dexlansoprazole is usually prescribed for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (15)
- Famotidine (Femspas, Diclosef, Famodic) for ulcer treatment (16)
In most cases, you can take care of your child at home and wait for a week. Homecare can continue even if the child is on medication.
Taking Care Of Your Child At Home
Here is how you can do it:
- Make your kid lie down straight and breath slowly to see if the pain subsides
- Let your child keep sipping water or any other clear fluids such as coconut water
- The child may try to pass stool to get immediate relief
- Do not give solid foods to your kid until the pain subsides
- After the pain subsides, offer mild foods like rice, crackers, or applesauce
- If your child complains of a stomachache, do not immediately give aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen but wait for the body to work on it
You can also try some home remedies, which are simple yet effective.
Home Remedies For Stomach Pain
Below are some remedies, which mitigate stomach pain:
1. Mint leaves
- Give your kid some fresh mint leaves to chew
- Infuse fresh mint in cold water
2. Lemon juice
- The alkalinity of lemon juice neutralizes the acid in the stomach and boosts the digestive system (17)
- Dilute some tablespoons of lemon juice in hot water and give it to your child to sip slowly. You may add honey to it
- Fennel reduces bloating, gas and stomachache; it is suitable for the overall digestion (18)
- Try to get raw fennel bulbs, slice a piece off and give it to your child to chew on
- If raw fennel is not available, you can use the seeds too
- Ginger has natural qualities to fight inflammation, curtail stomach acid, and support digestion (19)
- Cut thin slices of fresh ginger and have your child chew them
- You can also make ginger tea and add in drops of honey
It cannot be called a remedy for stomach pains, but yogurt helps in digestion and bowel movements because it is an excellent source of probiotics (the good bacteria present in the stomach) (20).
Add powdered cinnamon to your child’s food, or make tea with cinnamon sticks. It helps relieve acidity and aids in digesting the heaviest of meals (21).
7. Chamomile tea
It reduces inflammation of the stomach (22).
In addition to the home remedies, bring in some dietary changes to avoid foods that add to the problem.
Foods To Avoid During Stomach Pain
Do not offer foods or fluids that may cause irritation in the stomach. Some of them are:
- Carbonated drinks
- Citrus fruits
- Dairy products
- Greasy, oily and fried foods
- Tomatoes or tomato products
- Foods with high fat content
- Hard candies
- Chewing gum
- Processed foods
Foods that result in bloating or gas, such as (23):
- Beans; it has sugars like alpha-galactosidase, belonging to a group of carbs called FODMAPs, which escape digestion
- Whole grains like wheat and oats, which are a major source of FODMAPs
- Brussels sprouts
You may also take care of general hygiene and food habits so that your child doesn’t get stomach pain often.
Preventing Stomach Pain In Children
You can prevent your little one from getting stomach pain due to indigestion, constipation, and infections. Here are some tips:
- Do not let your child overeat. Instead, divide the food into smaller and more frequent meals.
- Encourage your child to eat fiber-rich food like veggies and fruits to prevent constipation.
- Teach your child to wash their hands thoroughly before eating. This can prevent viruses and bacteria from entering their body.
- Do not let your child eat just before going to bed. It will cause indigestion or lead to acid reflux.
- Make sure your child drinks a lot of fluids, in particular, water. It will prevent stool from hardening and also keeps them well-hydrated.
- To avoid the risk of accidental poisoning or foreign body ingestion, take care of the following:
- Keep all your cleaning supplies or any hazardous materials locked away and in their original containers.
- Disinfect your kid’s room as often as you can to prevent any infection or allergies
- Do not allow your child to play with things they can swallow easily
Remember that usually there are no complications from stomach pain. But if the pain is due to some underlying condition, then there could be complications arising from that condition. Hence, take your child to a doctor if the stomach pain comes continuously or exists for more than four to five days.
Meanwhile, you can try the home remedies and take care of them at home. In normal cases, these are enough to address the ache.
Do you have any remedies to share? Let us know in the comment section below.
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