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Tiny Tummies, Big Troubles: Understanding Childhood Stomach Pain

Updated: 22 Apr 2024
Published: 17 Apr 2024

Do you witness your child clutching their stomach and complaining about stomach pain all the time? Well, you don't have to panic, as most kids between 3 and 11 frequently experience stomach aches. But, of course, it's not easy to see your child cry and complain of gastrointestinal pain, and this may give you sleepless nights and tension. 

Chronic stomach pain can often last for more than two months, and sometimes, it may not respond to traditional methods. People often administer home remedies and self-diagnose their children for acidity, gastrointestinal pain, or dyspepsia. They give their children home remedies, deworming, antibiotics, and anti-acidity medicines repeatedly for weeks or months without any results. Instead of showing progress, this frequently leads to taking leaves from school, low self-worth, stunted growth, and parents feeling powerless. For this reason, parents must know about the causes, symptoms and correct treatments of stomach pain and painful stomach cramps to prevent their children from experiencing it regularly.

Signs and Symptoms of Stomach Pain in Children

Do you witness your child clutching their stomach and complaining about stomach pain all the time? Well, you don't have to panic, as most kids between 3 and 11 frequently experience stomach aches. But, of course, it's not easy to see your child cry and complain of gastrointestinal pain, and this may give you sleepless nights and tension.

  1. Fever
  2. Vomiting
  3. Loose stools or constipation
  4. Painful stomach cramps
  5. Blood in stools or urine
  6. Painful urination

Causes of Stomach Pain

Several factors can cause stomach pain among children. These include:

  1. Gas formation in children - gastrointestinal pain
  2. Unregulated intake of junk food
  3. Constipation
  4. Stomach infection
  5. Worm infestation
  6. Post medication for fever or any other infection
  7. Food poisoning
  8. Urinary tract infection

It is important to note that if abdominal pain persists for more than an hour and you come across any concerning signs, then instead of giving home remedies, you must contact the paediatrician immediately for further guidance. Ensure that you do not administer any medications unless advised by a doctor.

Precautions to Prevent your Child from Stomach Pain

You can take some of the following actions if your child is complaining of stomach pain:

  • Monitor your child's eating habits and encourage them to avoid junk food and regularly eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Include salads and foods high in fibre in their diet.
  • Advise them to avoid tetra pack juices and aerated beverages.
  • Ensure your child drinks 12 to 14 glasses of water daily.
  • Keep track of their urine activity. Every child should urinate five to six times during the day and once or twice at night.

How do I take care of a child with stomach pain?

When caring for a child who has a gastrointestinal pain or pain in the abdomen, you should:

  • Ensure that they get adequate rest.
  • Make sure they drink enough clear fluids, encourage them to take tiny sips frequently.
  • If they refuse to eat, don't push them.
  • Feed them bland foods like bread, crackers, or bananas if hungry.
  • If simple pain relief is needed, paracetamol is usually recommended.
  • Distract them from the pain by reading a book, rubbing their tummy, or with toys.
  • If the baby has wind, burping them may help.
  • Sitting on the toilet may help them poop, which may ease the pain.
  • Bottle-fed babies may need their formula or breastmilk and oral rehydration solution.

Can stomach pain cause an emergency in a child?

Emergencies can arise if mild to moderate symptoms in the child are not attended adequately in situations like -

  1. Acute appendicitis
  2. Acute pancreatitis
  3. Vomiting of blood or green bile
  4. Intestinal obstruction and perforation.

Take your child to the nearest hospital in these situations.

When should you consult a paediatric surgeon?

If your child presents the following symptoms, along with stomach pain and painful stomach cramps, then you should consult a paediatric surgeon.

  1. Refusal for feed
  2. Weight loss
  3. Fever
  4. Vomiting green or blood
  5. Jaundice
  6. Difficulty in passing urine or stool
  7. Any lump in the tummy.

Parents need to be extra cautious when it comes to their child's health. While home remedies like warm water or hot water bags are fine for children, one must refrain from administering medications without consulting a doctor. To receive a correct diagnosis and course of treatment, parents should watch out for symptoms such as very young toddlers' unexplained continuous crying and by asking older children to indicate the area of pain.

By having your child examined immediately and receiving immediate medical care for the underlying cause of chronic stomach pain, you can significantly improve their quality of life and avoid issues like:

  1. Need for surgical interventions.
  2. Poor growth
  3. Anaemia
  4. Vitamin D deficiency, etc.
  5. Any underlying health condition.

Stomach Pain Diagnoses in Children

When it comes to your child's pain, a doctor will question you or your child. They will reassure your child and then give them a thorough examination. Finding the source of a child's stomach pain may occasionally require testing. These include:

  • Blood tests
  • urine or stool samples
  • Ultrasound
  • x-rays

Stomach Pain Treatment in Babies and Children

Often, no specific treatment is necessary other than home care. However, some treatments that may be needed include:

  • oral rehydration solution or intravenous fluids
  • pain relief — usually paracetamol at the recommended dose for age and weight.
  • an operation (surgery)

Antibiotics are not generally recommended for gastrointestinal pain and stomach pain, as most infections will be due to a virus.

Conclusion

Stomach pain is one of the common symptoms in children seeking paediatrician consultation, and by encouraging them to eat healthily, avoid junk food, and include fibre-rich foods in their diet, you can significantly help your child limit/avoid bouts of tummy pain.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. How long can chronic stomach pain last in children?

    Answer:- Chronic stomach pain can last for more than 2 months in some cases, requiring attention and proper diagnosis.

  2. What are the potential consequences of repeatedly administering antibiotics for childhood stomach pain? 

    Answer:- Repeated use of antibiotics without proper diagnosis can lead to antibiotic resistance and may not address the actual cause of the stomach pain.

  3. How can parents differentiate between minor stomach discomfort and a more serious issue in children?

    Answer:- Persistent or severe stomach pain accompanied by fever, vomiting, blood in stool, or significant changes in appetite or behaviour may indicate a more serious underlying condition requiring medical attention.

  4. Are there dietary changes that can help alleviate childhood stomach pain?

    Answer:- Yes, avoiding trigger foods such as dairy, gluten, and spicy or fatty foods may help in some children.

  5. Are there lifestyle changes that can help prevent childhood stomach pain?

    Answer:- Encouraging regular physical activity and promoting healthy eating habits can help avoid stomach childhood pain.

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