Common Causes of Stomach Discomfort In Kids

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Children’s tummy aches are one of the most common complaints from children 11 years old and younger. Although stomach discomfort in a child can be concerning for parents, oftentimes, your kid’s stomach ache is not a serious matter. Assuming that your child’s claim of stomach discomfort is legit—as opposed to an excuse for getting out of something they don’t want to do—home treatment is often sufficient to help relieve what ails them.

The hardest part of finding the proper stomach ache remedies usually involves determining what’s provoking it in the first place. And while we can’t guarantee any steadfast stomach ache cures (every child’s situation is different), we can help put your mind at ease by arming you with knowledge and know-how. Ahead, we’re diving into the most common causes of stomach pain in kids. We’ll also share different types of children’s stomach issues, how to treat them, and tips to help prevent them.

What Causes Abdominal Discomfort In Children?

One of the reasons identifying the cause of stomach pain in kids can be so difficult is because factors contributing to it can originate from so many different sources. Physical issues may seem like the most obvious. But upset tummies in kids can also be caused by more latent triggers—emotional and psychological among them.

Some of the most common physical causes of stomach pain in kids tend to be: dehydration, overeating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, nausea, and a stomach bug. While diagnosing the latter may necessitate a trip to the pediatrician, the former can usually be treated at home with dietary changes or over-the-counter medication.

If your kid’s stomach ache seems to come and go for a week or more, and there are no obvious physical causes, it may be due to stress or anxiety. Take note of your child’s activities and schedule, as oftentimes emotionally-based stomach pain in kids is related to an unpleasant or upsetting event. Typically, this type of kids’ stomach ache occurs in school-aged children. However, it can also occur in a younger child who is under an unusual amount of stress. Your little one may act quieter or louder than normal, and have trouble expressing their thoughts or feelings when asked. As with any belly discomfort, if your child’s stomach ache persists or results in distress, talk to your pediatrician.

What Is The Difference Between Stomach Pain, Aches, and Discomfort In Kids?

As you can see, there are many types of stomach issues in kids. But how can you tell if your child is experiencing pain, aches, or general discomfort? Unfortunately, your child might not know either; the answer may be subjective, according to how your child interprets it. Instead, asking about the severity may help give you more insight.

See if your child can describe what they’re feeling: is it sharp, dull, throbbing, or just unsettled? Other questions you may want to ask are when it occurs, if anything makes it feel better or worse, and if they are feeling discomfort anywhere else. Perhaps most importantly, try to have them explain or point to where it hurts—location can be a clue to the cause.

Discomfort around the belly button, for example, is one of the most common complaints kids have, and it’s usually nothing to worry about. Typically, it’s caused by stress or eating something that doesn’t agree with them. Similarly, if the middle of their upper abdomen feels uncomfortable, indigestion is likely to blame. Key signs may include nausea, bloating, burping, or heartburn, which can normally be treated at home. Stomach pain on your kid’s left side of their belly is usually simple constipation. In rare instances, it could be something more serious, as can pain on the lower right of their abdomen. If pain is severe or persists (and especially if it’s accompanied by fever, vomiting, or diarrhea), be sure to make an appointment with your pediatrician.

What Can You Give Your Child For Stomach Pain and Discomfort?

Stomach issues in children under 11 usually resolve themselves on their own. For minor discomfort, a little rest and hydration may be all your child needs. Try giving them clear liquids, like water, broth, or decaffeinated tea. And encourage them to have a bowel movement. You can also try giving them smaller meals, with mild foods, such as rice, toast, crackers, gelatin, or applesauce.

Still, kids’ stomach aches can be vexing—difficult for your child to experience, and uncomfortable for you to watch. So you may want to keep some Children’s Mylicon Multi-Symptom Tummy Relief chewable tablets on hand. They’re the only over-the-counter treatment that can address multiple tummy troubles in addition to acid buildup in children ages two to 11. In addition to relieving gas and bloating, they can help with acid indigestion, heartburn, uncomfortable feelings of fullness, and pressure from overeating.

How To Prevent Stomach Discomfort and Pain In Kids

Without a doubt, the best way to deal with children’s stomach issues is to try and avoid them in the first place. Granted, that’s not always possible. (What a world it would be if we could!) There are things you can do, though, that may help lessen the occurrence or severity. Below are a few tips you can try.

Foster healthy eating habits: Children’s eating habits start to develop early on, around the time they’re one to two years old. So it’s important to teach your child healthy habits from a young age through their teenage years. One frequent contributor to stomach pain in kids is overeating. Encourage your child to eat slowly, as it can take up to 20 minutes for feelings of fullness to set in. Stay away from the traditional urging to “finish the plate,” as this can easily backfire as an upset tummy.

Pay attention to the potty: Stomach discomfort is commonly caused by irregular bowel movements. Take note of how often and how much your child goes #2, as well as the size and consistency of it. Doing so will make it easier for you to determine if your kid’s stomach ache is due to constipation.

Beware of bubble-makers: Excess gas from swallowing too much air is often the culprit behind stomach pain, swollen bellies, and bouts of burping and flatulence. And they can be exacerbated by things like chewing gum and drinking carbonated beverages. If your child has any of these issues, try temporarily cutting them out and see if it helps.

Timing is everything: “Circadian rhythms” are maybe best known in reference to the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. But did you know they are also intricately involved with digestion? Just like your child’s sleep-wake cycle can get thrown off if they go to bed at a different time each night, so too can their digestive function.

Plan your little one’s meals and snacks on or around the same time each day. By helping to train your child’s digestive system to expect food at regular intervals, it can help with its ability to process it and optimize their metabolism. And surprise: since sleep and digestive circadian rhythms are related, getting your child’s digestive system on track may help them get better sleep, too.

Up next: Learn how stress can cause a tummy ache in your kiddo.


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