Abdominal Pain in Kids: Advice from the Pediatric Specialist at St. Louis Children's Hospital
How to Cure a Child's Stomach Ache
When your child doesn’t feel well, you want to do everything in your power to help them feel better. Stomach aches are common and they may be caused by any number of reasons. By ruling out emergencies, comforting your child, and providing natural relief you can help ease your child’s discomfort.
Ruling Out Emergencies
Know when to call a doctor.Sometimes, a stomach ache can be serious or a sign of a medical condition. Such conditions will usually cause your child to exhibit a range of symptoms.Call the doctor immediately if your child has:
- Persistent pain on the right side of their abdomen (a symptoms of appendicitis)
- Pain only in one specific part of the abdomen
- Severe or rapidly worsening pain
- Pain lasting for more than 24 hours
- Tenderness when you put pressure on their belly
- A swollen abdomen
- An abdomen that is hard or stiff to the touch
- Pain or swelling in the groin (including testicles)
- Pain during urination
- High fever
- Frequent vomiting or diarrhea; inability to keep water down
- Blood in the stool/vomit or rectal bleeding
- A recent injury to the abdomen
Know when to call poison control.A stomach ache could be a result of consuming something poisonous, such as a chemical, medicine, cleaning product, or other dangerous substance. If your child has consumed (or you think they have consumed) a non-edible item or liquid, call your local poison control center. You can reach the American Association of Poison Control Centers at (800)222-1222.Some signs that your child may have ingested poison include:
- Unexplained vomiting or diarrhea
- Chest pain
- Blurred vision
- Unexplained stains on clothing
- Burns on lips, mouth, or skin
- Excessive drooling
- Bad breath
- Trouble breathing
Soothing Your Child
Get their mind off of it.Stories, movies, and board games can be used to pass the time and help your child forget about their tummy ache. Do your best to have fun while you wait for the pain to pass.
Give your child a warm bath.Warm water help your child to relax, and help them feel better. Also, baths can be fun! Toss in some bubbles and bath toys to encourage them to forget the stomach ache for a while.
Ask them to drink water.If your child’s stomach ache is not an emergency, it may be as simple as slight dehydration. Offer your child some water and encourage them to drink. You may want to add a bit of fruit (such as watermelon or orange) to the water to make it taste better for them.
Feed your child bland foods.Bland white foods can help absorb any excess acid floating around in your child's tummy. A plain slice of whole wheat bread is an excellent choice, as well as dry crackers or plain rice.
Offer warm chicken broth.Chicken broth (especially broth made from real chicken bones) is a mild, nutritious, and easy-to-digest food. The warm liquid is also soothing. Especially if your child does not want to eat, try offering some chicken broth to help keep them nourished and hydrated.
- If your child does not eat chicken, you can offer vegetable broth instead.
Provide affection.Sometimes hugs and kisses are the best medicine! If your child feels loved and supported throughout the period of discomfort, they will be less likely to experience negative feelings. Provide plenty of affection and attention to keep them happy and calm.
Encourage your child to rest.Your child needs rest in order to recover and heal. They may want to press a pillow against their stomach. Snuggle together on the couch or lie down beside them and rub their tummy.
- Ask your child to lie down on their side if it seems like they have gas.
Providing Natural Relief
Offer papaya, ginger, or peppermint chews.Papaya, ginger, and peppermint are excellent for soothing upset tummies. Papaya, ginger, and peppermint chews are all available at health food stores. These items resemble candy and taste good, so your child is more likely to eat it.
- Always be sure to read the packaging to see how many chews your child can eat in a day. Be sure as well that your child is old enough to consume the chews safely.
Make tea to soothe your child's stomach.Ginger and mint are also available in tea form. These warm beverages work quickly to ease stomach discomfort. Make your child a cup of warm mint or ginger tea. You may add a bit of honey if it helps them to enjoy it.
- Avoid adding white sugar to the tea, as this may aggravate the child’s stomach.
- Don’t add honey if the child is under 2 years old, either. Since infants and toddlers don’t have the right digestive organisms, honey can cause a dangerous illness called infant botulism.
Try giving your child gripe water.Gripe water is a product sold to relieve colic and other tummy troubles in infants, but it can be helpful for older kids too. The main ingredient is fennel oil, which can help ease gas, bloating, or upset stomach. Try to avoid gripe water varieties that contain sweetener (sucrose) or alcohol.
Place a heating pad on your child's stomach.Warmth can encourage your child’s stomach muscles to relax, helping to ease the discomfort. Use a traditional heating pad (on low), or warm a cloth in the microwave.
Massage your child's tummy.With soft hands, rub circles around your child’s stomach. This should provide some comfort, while also encouraging their muscles to relax. Continue this for 5-10 minutes. Avoid moving too quickly or pressing too hard.
QuestionCan my son have Pepto-Bismol?
Doctor of MedicineDoctor of MedicineExpert AnswerAvoid regular Pepto-Bismol in children under the age of 12. You can use Children's Pepto for younger ages if the child has an upset or sour stomach or symptoms of heartburn. Keep in mind that it may not help all stomach aches. Check with a doctor if your child has a stomach ache that is severe or not getting better.Thanks!
QuestionWhat should I do if my child's stomach hurts for 3 straight days?
Doctor of MedicineDoctor of MedicineExpert AnswerIf a child has a stomach ache for 3 days, talk to the doctor. Try to see what other symptoms the child has, including diarrhea, vomiting, or fever. See if they have been eating differently than usual or if other people in the family have similar symptoms. If the pain continues for 3 days, however, it's best to talk to your child's doctor. They will likely want to see the child to determine the cause and treatment.Thanks!
QuestionDoes sleep help a stomachache?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. When your body is fighting a virus or bacteria, it needs lots of energy. Sleep will help the body regain some of that spent energy. Sleep can also help a child forget about his or her stomach ache.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I find the cause of a tummy ache?Duh It's StaceyCommunity AnswerYou can ask your child what she ate or drank or you could ask your local doctor.Thanks!
QuestionCan my child eat lemon and tomato when she has a stomach ache?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, this would not be a good idea, as both are very acidic and could make the stomach ache worse. Try the B.R.A.T. diet: Banana, Rice, Apple sauce, and Toast. These foods are bland but nutritious, and are okay to eat with an aching tummy.Thanks!
QuestionCould a child do this on his/her own if he/she knows how?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. A child can do most of these on his/her own. It might be a good idea for the parent to prepare the medicine ahead of time however, to prevent the child from accidentally overdosing or taking the wrong medicine.Thanks!
QuestionDo I need to see a doctor if diarrhea persists due to stomach flu?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNot initially but if this has been going on for over two days and hasn't stopped, go to a doctor to make sure everything is alright.Thanks!
QuestionCan antibiotics cause a stomachache in a four year old?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on what kind, but it's possible.Thanks!
QuestionCan you eat popcorn with a bad stomach ache?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt is not the best thing to eat, as its fiber content could further aggravate a stomach ache.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if I feel like I'm going to vomit and nothing happens?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerStay near a toilet or bucket just in case. Try eating a few saltines and drinking some ginger ale.Thanks!
- Don't panic or stress the child out.
- If your child throws up, encourage and patiently help him/her to drink water after to get rid of the taste.
- Give your child some tea. The heat of the tea will release gas that just won’t come out.
- Don't give your child soda if they are ill. The acidic content of the drink will make them feel much worse.
- Ask them if they had too much to eat; overeating can cause bloating or stomach aches.
- If your child is a girl, make sure she is not on her period.
- If you are not a medical professional or never had any first aid training, but you fear your child may have something serious, consult a doctor immediately.
- Ask your child if he/she has had a bowel movement lately. Irregular bowl movements can cause stomach aches and bloat.
- Yogurt is full of good bacteria and is, therefore, a good choice for a child with disturbed digestive system.
- If your child feels like puking, have them drink some ginger ale and eat some saltine crackers.
- If a bug is going around your child may just have a different type of bug with big stomach pains!
- If you think your girl is having her period which is causing the stomach ache, don’t stress her out as this will just make it worse for her experience. Try to make the person as calm as possible. Fruit helps while on your period.
- "I've got tummy ache" is one of the top excuses used by children to get out of doing things they don't want to do. Make sure your child is telling the truth about their symptoms.
- Be sure to tell the doctor if your child has special medical needs or concerns.
- Call a doctor if your child doesn’t respond to any of the advice above.
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