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Children, by virtue of their age and developmental phase, are prone to illness and injury. From colds and coughs, scrapes and bruises, to fevers and stomach upsets – kids go through them all. They recover quickly and come out stronger on the other side, but the duration of the illness or injury can be worrisome for a parent.
One of the most common illnesses that a child faces is a stomach ache. It is a common complaint among children of all ages, and it can be caused by various reasons – some serious, and others not.
Read on to discover the various causes and remedies of stomach pain in children.
Video: Stomach Pain in Kids – Causes and Remedies
What Is Stomach Pain in Children?
Stomach or abdominal pain in a child is pain around the tummy area. The pain can be anywhere from the chest to the groin area of the child. Stomach pain is a very common medical problem in children, and most cases of stomach pain are not of great concern. However, a few stomach pain cases can be of serious concern, depending on the symptoms.
Causes of Stomach Ache in Kids
There are a number of reasons for stomach aches in kids. Some of the common causes are:
1. Milk Allergy
Some children have an allergic reaction to the protein present in milk, which may cause stomach pain. A milk allergy can also cause cramps, vomiting, rashes, and diarrhoea in children.
2. Digestion Problems or Constipation
Bad or improper digestion, or constipation, may also cause stomach pain in children. A lack of fibre and roughage in the diet can cause constipation.
3. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Urinary tract infections may cause pain and discomfort in the abdomen of your child. The pain associated with a UTI is generally noticed in the lower abdominal region.
4. Strep Throat Infection
Apart from fever and sore throat, a child may also experience stomach pain during a strep throat infection.
5. Anxiety or Stress-Related Pains
Increased levels of anxiety or stress can trigger abdominal pain in your child. This pain is generally accompanied by other symptoms, such as diarrhoea, nausea, or vomiting.
6. Lead Poisoning
Lead poisoning is usually seen in younger children, those who tend to put everything in their mouths. Lead poisoning can cause a stomach ache, along with other symptoms such as constipation, lethargy and poor appetite.
7. Injury to the Stomach
Any kind of injury to the abdominal region can cause stomach pain in children.
An inflamed appendix can cause intense stomach pain in your child. This is a serious kind of stomach ache, and needs immediate medical attention, as it can be fatal if not treated at the right time.
9. Intestinal Problems
Intestinal ailments such as malrotation or intestinal blockages may cause pain in the stomach.
Menstrual cramps may cause stomach pain in older girls.
Symptoms of Stomach Pain
You may notice your child curling up in pain, crying incessantly, or making faces in agony. Some of these observations will help you assess the symptoms of stomach pain in your child:
1. Duration of the Pain
Normal cases of stomach ache in kids, such as gas or stomach flu, do not last long. However, if the pain lasts for more than 24 hours, you need to seek immediate medical attention.
2. Location of the Pain
The usual bouts of stomach aches in children are located in the centre of the abdomen. However, if your child complains of pain in the lower abdominal region or in a particular area, then it may be a cause of concern, and you should contact your paediatrician immediately.
3. Child’s Appearance
You may be able to detect the severity of your child’s condition if you find that your child is pale, sweaty, sleepy, or listless. He may also refuse to eat or drink.
A stomach ache accompanied by a fever is not associated with serious health issues. In fact, in some cases of serious health complications, there may be no fever with abdominal pain.
Diarrhoea is very common with stomach pain and is generally caused by a viral infection. Most bouts of diarrhoea subside within 3 to 4 days but may take longer also. However, if any blood is noticed in the stool, you must seek medical help.
6. Urinary Infection
Your child may complain of stomach pain while urinating. This may be a sign of a urinary infection, and might require a course of antibiotics.
If your child complains of stomach pain and also develops rashes on the skin, you need to get immediate medical help, as it may be scarlet fever, Henoch-Schonlein purpura, or another such ailment, all of which are serious medical issues.
8. Groin Pain
Young boys may report stomach aches when the pain is in their groin area. This may due to testicular torsion, a condition where testicles entwine or become twisted, and the blood supply to the area is cut off. This is a case of a medical emergency and needs quick action.
Abdominal pain in kids can be caused by a number of reasons. Any of the following diagnostic tests may be prescribed by your doctor to establish the right cause of the pain:
1. Physical Examination
A physical exam by the doctor will help ascertain the location of the pain. The location of the pain will further help the doctor to determine the exact reason for the pain.
2. Urine Test
Your child’s urine sample may be taken to check for the presence of an infection.
3. Stool Test
A stool test may be recommended to check the presence of any bacteria, parasites, or even blood.
4. Blood Test
The doctor may conduct a blood test to check lead and lipase levels, and the functioning of the liver.
5. Medical History of the Child
The doctor may inquire about your child’s medical history and even ask about the family’s medical history, to check for any autoimmune, or other, disorders.
6. Imaging Tests
Various imaging tests such as X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan may be advised by the doctor, to check for any abnormalities in the internal organs and tissues.
7. Other Tests
Apart from the above-mentioned tests, the doctor may conduct other tests, depending upon the symptoms of your child. These may include a pelvic examination, anal manometry, etc.
Usually, abdominal pain in kids can be treated effectively in any of the following ways:
- Adequate rest helps the child to recover quickly.
- In case of diarrhoea and vomiting, make sure the child consumes sufficient fluids.
- Refrain from force-feeding your child. If he wishes to eat, serve light and frequent meals.
- Over-the-counter medicines are a good option to treat stomach pain. However, it is recommended that you consult your doctor before giving any medicine to your child.
How to Prevent Stomach Pain in Children
You may take some of the following measures to help your child from getting tummy aches that may result from indigestion, infection or constipation:
- Include more fibrous foods in your child’s diet to keep constipation and indigestion at bay.
- Refrain from feeding your child too close to his bedtime, as it may cause indigestion.
- Do not let your child overeat at one meal. Serve smaller, frequent meals.
- Encourage your child to wash his hands well before and after every meal, to keep him safe from bacterial and viral infections.
- Monitor the fluid intake of your child, as lack of fluids can cause constipation.
Home Remedies for Stomach Pain in Children
Some home remedial measures may provide relief from stomach ache to your child, such as:
1. Chamomile Tea
The anti-inflammatory and sedative properties of chamomile tea help relax the muscles and are very effective in treating stomach cramping.
Yoghurt contains good bacteria, which are effective in neutralizing stomach aches that are caused due to bacterial infections.
3. Mint and Lemon
Mint helps to fight harmful bacteria, and lemon is effective in dealing with constipation. A cup of tea made with lemon and mint can help in treating stomach pain.
4. Warm Compressions
Warm compressions can be applied to your child’s tummy area. The increased blood flow can help to ease the pain.
Ginger is very effective in relieving stomach aches that result from overeating. However, giving ginger to children below the age of 2 is not recommended.
Honey is effective in treating stomach problems, because of its antibacterial properties. However, it is not recommended for children below the age of 1.
7. Outdoor Activities
Encouraging your child to engage in certain outdoor activities can help to relieve constipation and indigestion. Activities such as walking, running, and cycling are very effective in stimulating the gastrointestinal tract.
When to Seek a Doctor’s Help
Most cases of stomach pains are not serious and can be easily remedied at home. However, you should seek medical help for your child’s stomach pain in the following cases:
- If your child has had an abdominal injury in the recent past.
- If your child is facing breathing problems.
- If your child’s tummy is very hard and bloated.
- If your child experiences sudden and sharp pain attacks.
- If you notice any blood in the vomit or stool of your child.
- If your child is not able to pass stool.
- If your child is less than 3 months of age and has diarrhoea.
- If your child is experiencing pain while urinating.
- If your child is undergoing treatment for cancer.
There are many reasons for stomach aches in children. If you notice that the stomach pain is persistent, does not go away with home remedies, or is accompanied by any worrisome symptoms, it is advised that you seek immediate medical help.
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