Mom, My Tummy Hurts!

Posted on: 9 June 2022

Children often complain of a tummy ache, but it can be difficult to know if it's something normal or an indication of something more serious. Here's what parents should know about gastrointestinal problems common in children. 

What Are the Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Problems? 

Children experience symptoms similar to adults when they're having tummy troubles. 

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation, diarrhea, or abnormal bowel movements
  • Poor appetite
  • Belching and flatulence

What Are the Most Common Pediatric Gastrointestinal Problems? 

There is a wide range of digestive issues in children. 

Constipation: Children often don't drink enough water or get enough fiber in their diet. This can lead to bouts of constipation, which is infrequent bowel movements and dry, hard stools. This can cause abdominal pain as the fecal matter slowly moves through the colon. 

Allergies: The most common allergies in children are eggs, peanuts, and milk. If a child is allergic to a food, they may experience symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and cramps or have trouble breathing or wheezing. 

Appendicitis: While inflammation of the appendix can occur at any age, it's most common in people aged 10-30. Abdominal pain often begins around the belly button or in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen. Nausea, vomiting, fever, bloating, and flatulence or the inability to pass gas are hallmark appendicitis signs. 

Stomach Flu: Children, especially those who are school age or attend daycare, are exposed to a lot of germs and often come down with whatever virus is going around. While this can be a good thing, as exposure to different viruses can make for a more robust immune system, they're eventually bound to get sick with an unpleasant case of viral gastroenteritis. General malaise, fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea are all indicative of the flu. 

Stress: Little people are not immune to stress and if they are anxious or worried about something, their body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can suppress the digestive system, leading to a tummy ache or nervous diarrhea. 

When Should Parents Worry About Gastrointestinal Problems in Their Child? 

If your child regularly experiences gastrointestinal problems, they need to see their pediatrician. Additionally, If they have any of the following severe symptoms, seek medical attention immediately: 

  • Bloody stools
  • Severe pain that prevents them from moving around comfortably
  • Yellow skin
  • Abdominal swelling 
  • High fever
  • Severe tenderness in their belly
  • Persistent vomiting

Most tummy aches are not serious, but any ongoing issues need to be evaluated by the doctor. 

Contact your pediatric doctor for more information.