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Stomach Pain In Children: Causes, Remedies And Tips To Relive

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Stomach pain in children may indicate various conditions, ranging from mild issues, such as swallowing excess air, to serious problems, such as appendicitis. The stomach pain’s intensity, location, and duration may often indicate the severity of the underlying cause. Severe stomach pain that interferes with the child’s daily activities, including sleeping and eating, warrants prompt medical attention.

Keep reading this post to know the various causes, treatments, and home remedies for stomach pain in children.

Causes Of Stomach Pain In Children

The cause of stomach pain differs from person to person. Below are the common and usually less-serious causes of stomach pain (1) (2).

  • Gut problems such as irritable bowel syndrome or constipation.
  • Food-related problems such as food allergies, overeating, or food poisoning.
  • Stomach infection, such as gastroenteritis, or infections in other abdominal organs, such as the kidney or urinary tract.
  • Acid reflux or gastritis that causes pain in the upper abdomen.
  • Abdominal migraine leads to middle abdominal pain. The triggers that cause migraine headaches are also responsible for abdominal migraine (3).
  • Swallowing excess air can cause belching, stomach pain, and flatulence in children (4).
  • Dehydration, lactose intolerance, muscle strain, stress, menstrual pain (in girls), and insect bites are some other reasons.

If the pain is constant, gets worse, and does not subside after 24 hours, it may indicate a serious medical condition. Below are some serious conditions that may cause stomach pain in children (5) (6).

  • Gallstones, which are hard deposits from digestive fluid in the gall bladder.
  • Stomach ulcers or sores that develop on the stomach or esophageal lining.
  • Tumors of stomach or stomach cancer.
  • Abdominal trauma due to accidents or child abuse.
  • Accidental poisoning by swallowing harmful things, such as chemicals or solid objects.
  • Intussusception, which causes intestinal sections to collapse on one another, causing obstruction and cramping pain.
  • Appendicitis, which is inflammation of the appendix, causes severe and constant pain.
  • Ulcerative colitis or inflammatory bowel disease, which is a swelling of the digestive tract.
  • Sickle cell disease, pancreatitis, ovarian or testicular torsion, genetic metabolic disorders, and urinary tract infection are some of the other serious causes of stomach pain.

Risks Factors For Stomach Pain In Children

Children with the following health conditions might be at a higher risk of developing stomach aches (7).

  • Weak immune system could make the child prone to gastrointestinal infections.
  • History of recurrent gut infections or other gastrointestinal problems, such as reflux, may increase the chances of recurrent stomach pain.
  • Eating out often may increase the risk of food poisoning or viral gastroenteritis.
  • Rigorous sports activities may make the child prone to abdominal trauma due to injury.
  • Changes in a child’s eating and sleeping patterns may also increase the chances of stomach pain.

When To See A Doctor

Take your child to a doctor if they report any of the following symptoms (5) (8).

  • Recurrent pain lasting for a week or longer
  • Pain around the belly button or one side of the abdomen
  • Diarrhea lasting more than two days
  • Worsening pain, accompanied by vomiting
  • Vomiting blood or green-colored vomit
  • Fever above 100.4°F
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Dull pain that moves from one side to another, worsening with movement
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling or tightening of the abdomen
  • Painful urination or blood in the urine
  • Stomach pain occurs after a fall or accident
  • Pain or rashes on the body

Diagnosis Of Stomach Pain In Children

The doctor will check the pain’s location, duration, and severity and whether the pain worsens on touching or applying pressure to the abdomen. It may help determine the probable underlying cause. The following tests may be suggested to determine the exact cause of stomach pain (9).

  • Blood tests, including complete blood count
  • Urinalysis and urine culture
  • Stool examination
  • X-ray of the abdomen
  • Ultrasound of the abdomen
  • CT Scan to visualize internal organs
  • Other tests, such as endoscopy, might also be suggested

Treatment For Stomach Pain In Children

The doctor may choose a suitable treatment strategy after diagnosing the underlying reason. The following medications may be prescribed based on the underlying cause of stomach pain.

  • Anti-flatulence medications, such as Simethicone, can help relieve the pain or pressure caused by excess gas (10).
  • Loperamide and Bismuth subsalicylate can help decrease the pain and discomfort of diarrhea (11).
  • Antibiotics can be given for severe urinary tract infections (12). Broad-spectrum antibiotics, such as Doxycycline, may be prescribed in case of bacterial infections.
  • Corticosteroids, such as Budesonide, can help ease the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (13) (14).
  • Antacids and proton pump inhibitors, such as Dexlansoprazole, may be given for GERD (15).
  • Antispasmodics and pain relievers may be prescribed by your child’s doctor for abdominal migraine management.
  • Dietary modifications, relaxation exercises, and behavioral therapy are additional therapies that the doctor may suggest (7).

In most cases, your child may feel better in a week with home care and medications that need to be taken as per expert opinion. Never give any medicines without consulting a doctor first.

Taking Care Of Your Child At Home

You may follow these tips to manage your child’s stomach pain (7).

  • Offer lots of fluids to your child to prevent dehydration.
  • Ask your child to take plenty of rest.
  • Have your child lie down straight and practice slow breathing to see if the pain subsides.
  • Suggest your child to pass stool, if possible, since it may provide some relief from pain and discomfort.
  • Try placing a heating pad or a warm compress to relieve the belly pain.
  • Do not give solid foods for some time, at least until the pain subsides. You may provide a liquid-based diet, such as soups, broths, and fresh homemade juices.
  • If your child constantly has digestion issues, try identifying foods that may trigger the stomach pain.

Home Remedies For Stomach Pain In Children

You may try home remedies to alleviate stomach pain. Many of these remedies are anecdotal with little scientific backing. Therefore, exercise caution and stay observant of allergies or unsuitability.

  • Peppermint oil: Studies suggest that peppermint oil effectively reduces the effects and severity of undifferentiated abdominal pain in children (16).
  • Lemon juice: Lemon is effective in neutralizing stomach acid. You may give warm water with lemon juice and honey (17).
  • Yogurt: Yogurt is a well-known source of probiotics, and it helps in digestion and bowel movements (18).
  • Ginger: Ginger is an effective anti-inflammatory agent. It supports digestion, reduces stomach acid, and reduces menstrual pain in girls (19). You may ask your child to chew a slice of ginger or boil ginger and honey in water and serve it to your child.

Foods To Avoid During Stomach Pain In Children

Certain food items, such as those mentioned below, may worsen stomach pain in children. You may also stay watchful for any other food items that trigger abdominal discomfort and stomach pain in your child (5) (7).

  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Fatty or fried foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Processed foods
  • Foods that naturally cause bloating or gas formation, such as cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, legumes, such as beans.

Prevention Of Stomach Pain In Children

The following measures may help prevent stomach pain in children (5) (20).

  • Include fiber-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, in your child’s diet to avoid constipation.
  • Try to give small and frequent meals to avoid stomach pain due to overeating and indigestion.
  • Give your child water and fluids frequently to prevent the hardening of stool and maintain proper hydration.
  • Encourage your child to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly to prevent infections.
  • Keep harmful chemicals and medications out of the child’s reach to avoid accidental poisoning.
  • Make your child wear protective gear to avoid abdominal trauma during rigorous sports activities.
  • Maintain proper hygiene in your house and disinfect your child’s room frequently to prevent allergies and infections.

Stomach pain is common among children. Most cases of stomach pain in children can be managed with appropriate home care and remedies. Do not give your child any over-the-counter stomach pain medicines without first consulting a doctor. If the pain is severe or persists for long, consult a doctor to determine the underlying cause and initiate the treatment for relief.

References:

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  1. Alexander K.C. Leung And David L. Sigalet; (2003); Acute Abdominal Pain in Children.
    https://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0601/p2321.html
  2. Abdominal pain in children.
    https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/abdominal-pain-in-children#causes-of-abdominal-pain-in-children
  3. Abdominal Migraine.
    https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/abdominal-migraine/
  4. Giuliana Morabito, et al.; (2014); Functional Aerophagia in Children: A Frequent, Atypical Disorder.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4025155/
  5. Abdominal pain – children under age 12.
    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007504.htm
  6. A. Plunkett and R.M. Beattie; (2005); Recurrent abdominal pain in childhood.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1079409/
  7. Functional Abdominal Pain in Children.
    https://gi.org/topics/functional-abdominal-pain-in-children/
  8. Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache).
    https://www.schn.health.nsw.gov.au/fact-sheets/abdominal-pain-stomach-ache
  9. Alan M. Lake; Chronic Abdominal Pain in Childhood: Diagnosis and Management.
    https://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0401/p1823.html
  10. Remy Meier and Michael Steuerwald; Review of the Therapeutic Use of Simethicone in Gastroenterology.
    https://www.karger.com/Article/PDF/286002
  11. Loperamide.
    https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/loperamide#section=Drug-Warnings
  12. J.A. Roberts; (1998); Role of aztreonam in urinary tract infections.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3287749/
  13. Michael J. Rosen, et al.; (2016); Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Children and Adolescents.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4702263/
  14. Casey Barton Behravesh and Gordon E. Schutze; (2015); Doxycycline can be used in young children without staining teeth.
    https://publications.aap.org/aapnews/article-abstract/36/5/16/24797/Doxycycline-can-be-used-in-young-children-without?redirectedFrom=fulltext
  15. Benjamin D. Gold, et al.; (2017); Dexlansoprazole for Heartburn Relief in Adolescents with Symptomatic Nonerosive Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5649596/
  16. Dennis Anheyer, et al.; (2017); Herbal Medicines for Gastrointestinal Disorders in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28562281/
  17. Giuseppina Mandalari; (2017); Effectiveness of Citrus Fruits on Helicobacter pylori.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5376954/
  18. Marina Elli, et al.; (2006); Survival of Yogurt Bacteria in the Human Gut.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1489325/
  19. Ann M. Bode and Zigang Dong; The Amazing and Mighty Ginger.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/
  20. Abdominal pain.
    https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/abdominal-pain
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Vidya Tadapatri

Vidya did her post-graduation in Biotechnology from Osmania University, Hyderabad. Her interest in scientific research and writing made her pursue a career in writing, in which she now has over four years of experience. She has done certified biotechnology-related training programs under renowned organizations such as Centre For Cellular & Molecular Biology and Department of Biotechnology. Vidya writes health-based articles... more