Nothing’s more worrisome than a sick child, especially when you don’t know for sure what’s causing the problem. Stomach aches and kids go hand in hand, so if you have children, it’s good to get familiar with the many varied causes of tummy bugs so you know how to help your kid feel better, and when to seek professional care.
At Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center, Dr. Ugonma (Ugo) Harriet Okparaocha and our team of expert pediatric medical professionals help kids with stomach issues every day, so we put together this brief guide so you can respond appropriately.
1. Know the common causes of stomach pain
Kids’ belly issues can range from mild to severe. But what’s causing all this pain and discomfort? It helps to become familiar with the most common culprits behind kids’ tummy issues. Here’s what we see most frequently:
Learning the symptoms of these various conditions can help you identify the problem at home. Of course, in the case of a milk allergy or intolerance, it’s best to come in so we can run some tests to verify it and give you important information about how to help your child make dietary adjustments.
If the problem is acute appendicitis, your child needs immediate medical care.
2. Know the location of the pain
The reason we always ask a child where it hurts is that the location of the pain gives us valuable information about what’s causing it.
Pain behind the belly button
Pain in the center of the tummy is typically not serious. If your child says the pain in the general vicinity of the belly button, chances are they ate something that doesn't agree with them. Have them lie down and rest, and make sure they’ve had a recent bowel movement. A glass of water can help move things along.
Stress can also cause mid-tummy pain, so if your child is under a lot of pressure at school or in sports, that may be the cause. Stressful family relationships can also manifest as tummy problems.
Lower right side pain
The appendix is located in the lower right region of the abdomen, so pain in this area may indicate possible appendicitis. Other symptoms include;
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Decreased appetite
- Inability to pass gas
This is a serious condition that needs immediate attention, so call us right away. If you let appendicitis go untreated it can become an emergency very quickly.
Left side pain
Most pain felt on the left side of the abdomen is related to constipation, but since the pancreas is located on that side, it’s important to have it checked out. Pancreatitis is rare, but it can be serious, so it’s best to know for sure.
Upper tummy pain
Indigestion causes pain in the upper abdomen. The discomfort is often accompanied by bloating and burping as well as heartburn, and sometimes nausea.
However, it is also possible that your child has gallstones, as the gallbladder is located in the upper right region of the abdomen.
3. Know what to do for belly pain
You can tell a lot about the severity of your child’s tummy problem by listening to what they say and watching their body language. If it seems severe, call us and we can help you decide whether you need to come in.
In most cases, however, you can help your child at home by:
- Encouraging rest
- Make sure the bowels have been moving regularly
- Offering lots of water, small sips at a time
- Gently rubbing, caressing, or massaging their tummy
- Using a warm heating pad to ease cramps
- Switching to a bland diet of crackers and light soup
- Using a stool softener when needed
- Offering acetaminophen or ibuprofen when necessary to ease pain
If these conservative measures don’t work, call us for an appointment.
4. Know what medications are okay for a tummy ache
In many cases, over-the-counter medications can help relieve your child’s symptoms. Depending on the cause of the problem, it might help to give:
- Ibuprofen (Advil®)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
- Stool softeners
If you’re unsure about medications, call us. We’re happy to help you figure out what’s safe for your child. Some medications can make the stomach ache even worse, so it’s good to check with us first.
5. Know when to see a doctor
When stomach issues become severe, don’t try to treat them at home. Come see us immediately if you notice:
- Bloody stool
- Unexplained weight loss
- Jaundice (yellow tinge to the skin)
- Pain that wakes your child up
- Pain when they urinate
Our team is here to help you handle minor tummy aches and serious stomach issues. To schedule an appointment, call us or request a visit online, today.