Pinpoint the Location
One of the most serious causes of stomach pain in children is appendicitis. While you can usually wait to see how other types of pain develop, symptoms of appendicitis should be treated immediately. The most telling indicator of appendicitis is the location of the stomach pain. It typically begins around the belly button, then moves to the lower right side. This area of the abdomen will become tender to the touch, and any type of movement will make it hurt worse.
Mild stomach pain is typically difficult to pinpoint, covering a larger area of the child’s body. If your child can pinpoint a very localized area of pain, you should see a doctor, as this might indicate a hernia, ulcers, or gallbladder problems.
Identify Other Symptoms
Accompanying symptoms can tell you a lot about stomach pain. A mild stomachache doesn’t often have any additional symptoms. Things that you should pay close attention to include:
- Blood in vomit or stool
- Persistent or high fever
- Sudden weight loss
- Excessive diarrhea or vomiting
- Frequent urination
- Bed wetting
- Sore throat
If your child has multiple symptoms, see a doctor to identify the cause of these problems.
Watch the Duration
Most stomach problems will resolve within 24 hours. You can provide basic home care during this time by having your child lie down, drink plenty of clear fluids, and eat only a mild diet. If the pain doesn’t improve in 24 hours, or if it suddenly worsens, you should take your child to the doctor.
Analyze Diet and Bowel Movements
Most stomach pain is caused by mild, self-resolving issues. Half of all acute abdominal pain in children is due to constipation. If your child hasn’t had a bowel movement in two days or more, constipation is a safe bet. Avoid white foods such as rice, bread, pasta, milk, and apples, which can contribute to the problem. Instead, give your child plenty of fiber and fluids.
If your child has recently eaten a new food, this could be the cause of the stomach upset. Eating too much is another main contributor. If you suspect either of these as the cause of your child’s stomach pain, prescribe fluids and rest until he or she feels better.
Watch for Stressors
If you notice your child frequently complaining of stomach pain that has no identifiable cause, you should consider whether stress is the source. More than 10 percent of children have a “worried stomach” that will cause them to feel pain and discomfort when they’re struggling with emotional issues. Help your child work through these issues, and the pain might cease.
Always seek medical attention if you feel that your child’s pain is beyond the realm of normal discomfort. It’s better to be safe and speak to your doctor early than to ignore a potentially serious problem.