Does your child often complain about abdominal pain?
You may think that their stomach ache is due to something they ate but it can also be worse.
When your child cannot move then it is time to contact your doctor.
Parents often take their children to the doctor with a stomach ache.
Though, it is hard to figure out what actually causes it.
Occasional stomach aches can be due to gas or issues with digestion, however, constant pain is a red flag.
This article details the several causes behind a stomach ache in your child and how you can treat them at home and medically.
Abdominal Pain Causes
Food Indigestion and Poisoning
Food-related causes that can cause your child to have a stomach ache include food allergies and food poisoning.
Moreover, overeating can also cause them to have belly pain besides leading to childhood obesity.
Another form of poisoning is ingesting something harmful.
For example, your child will report a mild tummy ache if they have eaten soap and there is nothing to worry about that.
However, if they have taken iron pills or ingested a large dose of acetaminophen then it is quite worrisome.
Take them to the hospital immediately if that happens.
Your child can get an infection like gastroenteritis due to viruses and bacteria in their gut.
A sign of that is that diarrhea and vomiting accompany the stomach ache.
You will need to visit the doctor for the bacterial infection but the viral infection will last a few days without needing antibiotics.
Moreover, bladder, kidney, chest and ear infections can also cause your child’s tummy to hurt.
As girls enter puberty, they will start feeling dysmenorrhea also known as menstrual cramps.
The cramps pain is pain similar to a stomach ache.
Hence, they will have these stomach cramps before they begin their period every month.
It is nothing to worry about but you can cope with the PMS symptoms to reduce their impact.
If your child points towards a pain on their right side then it can be due to appendicitis.
Similarly, a bowel blockage- intussusception or diabetes complications can all lead to stomach aches.
A black spider bite can be dangerous for your child and will also cause a tummy ache.
A migraine and strain in the muscles can also cause your abdomen to hurt.
How Should You Identify it in Your Child?
It is completely fine to have occasional aches stemming from gas or gut flu.
However, they do not usually last long.
Hence, if your child keeps complaining about a stomach ache lasting long, it is time to take them to a doctor.
So, one way to identify a serious problem is to notice how long it lasts.
Also, notice the pain site.
Normal stomach ache will be in the center and your child will probably rub his belly.
However, if it is on the right side accompanied by nausea and vomiting, it probably is pointing towards the appendix.
They may also get a fever and diarrhea.
Diarrhea usually indicates a gut infection due to a virus.
Similarly, constant vomiting is not a good sign either as it can further cause dehydration.
Furthermore, in order to guess the severity of their condition, look at their appearance.
Your child may not be able to define the extent of their pain with words.
Hence, if they look terribly ill, down, pale and refuse to distract themselves by playing or eating then you know they are not well.
If they urinate painfully and frequently then that may also point towards infection in the bladder.
If your child also has a rash or pain in the groin with the tummy ache then it is time to take them to your doctor.
You can tell these symptoms to your doctor who will run a few exams and identify the cause of their pain.
More on that below!
Diagnosis and Medical Treatment
Since there are many causes behind lower abdominal pain in children, your doctor will first ask for your child’s history and health information.
They will conduct a series of tests and exams to identify the cause.
This includes a rectal exam to check for blood in stools, an X-ray or CT if needed, a pelvic exam, a stool test, a urine test and a blood test.
These tests help to find out the organ from which the aches are stemming.
The abdominal region is usually responsible for it due to acid reflux, bowel diseases, celiac disease or kidney stones/gallstones.
Once the test results arrive, your doctor can suggest what’s better for your child.
They may send the child back with advice on taking fluids and rest.
Otherwise, they can give acetaminophen to regulate your child’s fever.
Furthermore, they will recommend that you give your child a bland diet of porridge or bread slices for a few days.
Next, they will prescribe antacids for indigestion and GERD.
If they find out the cause to be a celiac disease that inflames intestines, then they will suggest your child to go gluten-free.
However, in the case of irritable bowel syndrome or ulcers, they will suggest different emergency medicine and interventions to treat it.
Medical care is important to identify the type of pain.
This cramp like pain occur due to reasons only a health care provider can identify.
You should not try any home remedies on your child and even if you have, tell that to your doctor beforehand.
Instead, you should let them rest and give them fluids and encourage them to eat small portions to take care of their pain.
Abdominal Pain Treatment-Taking Care of Your Child
As your child shows signs of abdominal pain, lay them on the bed and tell them to rest.
You can advise them to lay down on their belly so that it relives any gas pain.
This will also help to reduce the aches.
When they have taken meals, tell them to rest and avoid movement.
Maybe taking an overnight sleep will help them feel much better in the morning.
Furthermore, you can also put a hot water bag on their tummy to soothe their pain.
Give Bland Foods and Fluids
Your child may not want to start eating regular meals soon.
Neither is it good for their abdomen.
Their body, especially the gut should get a rest.
Hence, it is much better for them to eat bland foods like porridge or bread.
If they do not want solid foods then substitute that with liquid foods.
It will help to keep them from dehydrating.
Though a sick child may not be able to digest them before they throw up.
Hence, only give a small amount around 2 ounces between 15-minute gaps.
Fluids do not include your standard water and milk.
In fact, these two can disrupt the salt content in the body.
Give younger children Pedialyte to regulate their salt content and electrolytes.
Older chicken can eat soup broth.
Avoid giving them soft drinks or other acidic and caffeinated drinks which can actually increase their stomach ache.
When your child is finally feeling better, you can give them other foods like banana and apple sauce.
Though, begin by giving them toast, crackers and rice.
Have A Bowel Movement
The pain may arise from constipation and bowel issues.
Then it is better to encourage your child to have a bowel movement.
As soon as they do they may find relief.
When Should You Reach Out to the Doctor?
It is indeed quite painful to see your child crying in pain.
A stomach ache upsets your entire routine and makes you unable to do anything.
However, you should first try the self-care at home tips to see if your child feels better.
They can relieve gas by sleeping overnight.
So, there’s a chance they may feel much better when they wake up.
However, that may not always be the case.
You should take your child to the doctor if their pain persists and remains on the same spot.
Be especially vigilant if they complain about pain at their right side which can indicate the possibility of appendicitis.
If this pain does not go away by 24 hours then you have no reason to stay back at home.
It is even worse if they have been vomiting for a day too.
The pain may also rapidly worsen and hurt when you touch the location of pain.
If other conditions like fever, paleness, vomiting and looking unwell accompany them then you should not wait any longer and take them to the emergency room.
Other concerning signs are:
- the abdomen swells and is hard when touched
- bleeding from the rectum and in stool
- bleeding in vomit
- skin rash
- pain in groin
- inability to pass urine
- an injury in the abdomen
All these signs indicate that you should hurry to the doctor.
An infant cannot even describe the extent of their pain, hence the parents should be vigilant.
Abdominal pain is usually not concerning.
However, it can indicate a more serious medical problem.
Hence, if your child does not relieve gas, has a bowel movement and the pain persists, then it is time to visit the doctor.