Picture this: you’re all set to leave for the morning and one of your children announces, “I have a stomach ache!”
Any parent of young children can relate to the confusing nature of children’s stomach pains. You may wonder: Is it serious? Just a stomach bug? Did they eat something that made them ill? Or are they just trying to get out of going to school?
It’s time to play digestive detective.
- First, consider your child’s behavior. Is your child lethargic, or able to play?
- Next, consider the symptoms. Obviously your biggest clue is if any vomiting or diarrhea are present. Determine if your child’s complaints are specific, such as a stabbing pain, or vague, which may indicate a less serious problem.
- Also, look at what they’ve eaten recently. Foods that contain a lot of sugar, spice or fat can cause stomach aches and pain. Many people also have trouble digesting dairy products.
- Look for a pattern. If your child always complains of stomach pain on school mornings, then anxiety may be the cause.
No matter what, whether you think they are a big fake, or they really have an upset stomach, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Time is your biggest ally when it comes to determining exactly what’s happening inside your child’s belly. Have him or her rest quietly and drink sips of clear fluids for several hours. If no vomitting is present, try mild foods such as dry toast or crackers. If your child’s symptoms worsen, or are accompanied by fever, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody stool, contact your health care provider.
If your child continues to complain of stomach aches, without visible symptoms, there is a way to end this typical childhood game. Simply put your child to bed for an entire day without electronics or television to ‘rest their stomach.’ Most children will not complain of a stomach ache again unless their symptoms are real.
To learn more, visit Indiana University Health Pediatrics.