There are many reasons why a child may have discomfort in their stomach. Figuring out what is causing the pain can be tricky – especially if you are dealing with a young child that cannot communicate to you exactly how they are feeling. It is a common occurrence in kids and most of the time it is nothing serious. But we still want to make the little ones feel better. Here are some signs that your child may be having stomach trouble:
- Acting fussy or grumpy
- Doesn’t sleep or eat
- Cries more than usual
- Trouble being still (squirming or tensing up muscles)
- Makes faces that show pain (squeezing eyes shut, grimacing)
What You Can Do
If your child is younger than three months, they may be dealing with colic. Signs of colic include: crying more in the evening, crying for at least 3 hours for 3 days a week (or more) for at least 3 weeks, pulling their legs to their chest when they cry, passing lots of gas. Try swaddling the child in a blanket, hold them and walk around or rock them, distract them with white noise or give them a pacifier.
Stomach pain can also be caused by having gas. Gas can come from bacteria in their intestines, swallowing air, trouble digesting formula or food, and from having trouble with breastmilk when the mother eats certain foods. You can try changing the kind of formula you are using or if you are breastfeeding, try to determine what foods are giving the baby trouble.
Constipation is a very common cause of stomach pain. Take a look at their bowel movements. If what they are getting out is hard and dry – or nothing comes out at all – they may be constipated. Constipation can be caused by holding in bowel movements, not eating enough fiber-rich foods (fruits and vegetables), not drinking enough water, changes in diet or routine, medications and milk allergies. To help with this, you need to get the bowel movements going again. You can try to do this by having the child drink prune juice, eliminate foods like milk and cheese (or other foods that may cause constipation) from their diet, be sure they are getting regular physical activity and taking a break from potty-training.
When To Call A Doctor
If a stomach pains suddenly hit your child or if it just won’t go away, it is probably time to see the doctor. Additional symptoms the doctor should know about are:
- High fever 100.4 or higher
- Sore throat
- Diarrhea lasting for more than a few days
These symptoms could be a sign of an infection like strep throat, urinary tract infection, gastroenteritis, rotavirus, salmonella, E. coli, campylobacter and shigellosis.
Some other possible causes for stomach pain include appendicitis, intestinal blockage and parasites.
A child that is throwing up can be a nightmare for parents. Of course, the main concern is helping your child to feel better, but the amount of lost sleep for both child and parent and laundry that needs to be done (for young kids that don’t make it to the toilet) is no joke. There are lots of things that can cause vomiting. Some possible causes are illness, concussion, motion sickness, anxiety, and stress. But mostly, vomiting is caused by an infection of the digestive tract (gastroenteritis) – commonly called the stomach flu. This is caused by viruses that we run into frequently and it can also cause nausea and diarrhea. These infections normally are short and overall, not dangerous, but there are issues to keep an eye on.
Children that are suffering from vomiting and diarrhea can be dehydrated, which can drain the body of nutrients and water and lead to further illness.
What You Can Do
Stay calm. Vomiting can be scary for kids and parents. If you stam calm and reassure your child, it will be easier for them to keep calm too. Doing this and avoiding dehydration will help them recover.
When a child is vomiting, it is important to replace those lost fluids quickly. Do this by giving them a small drink often. The best liquids to use are oral rehydration solutions. The have a combination of fluids and minerals that will help your child stay hydrated. They are usually available at supermarkets and drugstores. Check with the doctor to see if there is a specific one that would be best. (Over-the-counter medications are not normally recommended for kids. A doctor can give you a prescription if necessary)
Babies under one year: Don’t give them plain water unless the doctor tells you to. If the child is under two months and vomits at all feedings, call the doctor immediately.
Breastfed babies: If the child vomits the entire feeding more than once, feed them for short periods (5-10 minutes) every two hours. If vomiting continues, call the doctor.
Formula-fed babies: Give them two teaspoons of an unflavored oral electrolyte solution every 15 minutes. If they can keep this down for two hours, you can gradually increase the amount you give them. Don’t give them more than they would normally drink during a feeding. When they make it 8 hours without vomiting, you can try formula again. Start with small amounts and work up to more as the child can handle it. After 24 hours, return to your normal feeding schedule.
Children age 1+: Give them a small (this can vary on the age/size of your child) drink of clear liquids every 15 minutes. If they keep vomiting decrease the size of the drink. Avoid straight juice, soda and sports drinks. After 8 hours without vomiting, try solid foods. Let them tell you when they are hungry and then start with bland foods like crackers or toast. After 24 hours of no vomiting, return to a normal eating schedule.
Remember that the viruses that cause gastroenteritis can easily spread to others so keep your sick child home from school or other places until they go 24 hours without vomiting. Be sure they wash their hands well and often to protect against these sorts of infections.
When To Call The Doctor
You should call the doctor if your child refuses to drink the fluids or the vomiting just won’t stop after you have tried to keep them hydrated. If you see the following signs of dehydration, call the doctor.
For babies: no tears when they cry, less than 4 wet diapers in a day, fussy behavior, they appear weak or limp, a soft spot on an infant’s head that appears flatter than usual or sunken.
For kids and teens: no urination for 6-8 hours, dry mouth, dry skin, inactivity or decreased alertness, excessive sleepiness, rapid breathing, fast or weak pulse, sunken eyes.
Some other signs that you need to call the doctor include: vomiting for an infant less than two months old, vomiting that starts after a head injury, vomiting bright green or yellow fluid, blood or brownish vomit or if their belly is hard or bloated between vomiting episodes.
Diarrhea is when bowel movements are loose and watery and the child needs to use the bathroom more often. It is a common issue and normally lasts 1-2 days. If it lasts longer, your child probably has a more serious problem. Diarrhea can be either short or long term.
Short-term (acute): It lasts for 1-2 days and then clears up. It is caused by contaminated food or water or from a virus.
Long-term (chronic): This can last for multiple weeks and might be caused by another health problem like irritable bowel syndrome or an intestinal disease. Some possibilities are ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and giardia.
There are many possible causes of diarrhea, including:
- Bacterial infection
- Viral infection
- Digestive issues (food tolerance)
- Immune system response to certain foods (allergy)
- Parasites coming from food or water
- Reaction to medication
- Intestinal disease
- Functional bowel disorder such as irritable bowel syndrome
- Surgery on the stomach or gallbladder
Symptoms of diarrhea may vary from person to person. They can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Upset stomach
- Urgent need to use the bathroom
- Bloody stool
Treatment of diarrhea will also vary from person to person, depending on their age, health and severity of the problem.
Dehydration is the biggest thing to watch for when dealing with diarrhea. Therefore, treatment involves replacing those fluids. If there is a bacterial infection, a doctor can prescribe antibiotics. If your child is dehydrated, here are some things to do:
- Give them glucose-electrolyte solutions drinks
- Do not give them juice or soda
- Do not give plain water to a baby
- Do not let kids of any age drink lots of plain water
- Continue breastfeeding a baby
- Continue using baby formula
When To See The Doctor
If your child is suffering from a severe case of diarrhea that will not go away, it could be a sign of something more serious and you should contact your doctor. If your child cannot maintain their daily routine, you might need to speak to the doctor.