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What’s the Cause of My Child’s Stomach Ache?

stomach-ache1Abdominal discomfort or pain is one of the most common complaints amongst children. In fact, stomach-related symptoms in children account for millions of visits to urgent care (and other medical facilities) each year. The good news is, most of these visits are not medical emergencies. The problem is usually solved with mild treatment, or simply waiting for the symptoms to subside.

However, parents still find it worrisome when their children have abdominal discomfort, and rather than waiting for the doctor to give them some idea of what’s going on, many prefer to understand the possible causes of stomach ache in children. That way, when a stomach ache does occur, parents have a general idea of what’s going on before they head to urgent care.

So what are the most common causes of stomach ache, and how are they treated? According to data from urgent care centers and other medical facilities, the majority of cases are related to the following:

  • Food intolerance or allergy
  • Constipation
  • Gas, bloating or indigestion
  • Swallowed air
  • Heartburn or reflux conditions
  • Food poisoning
  • Flu
  • Colic

All of these can be treated easily at your local urgent care center, and will usually resolve very quickly. However, parents are always wary of serious problems. In terms of abdominal pain in children, the following cases are possible, but rare:

  • Appendicitis
  • Hernia
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Mononucleosis
  • Ulcers
  • Torsions
  • UTIs
  • Other serious conditions

Types of stomach pain

The type of abdominal discomfort your child is experiencing may offer clues as to what’s wrong. If the pain is “generalized” and seems to be present in most of the abdominal area, or if the pain involves mild cramps, your child is probably experiencing a bout of indigestion, or another non-serious problem. If the pain is sharper and more localized, more serious problems are a consideration.

Signs in young children

It’s easier to know what to do when your child can verbally communicate how he or she feels—but if the child is too young to speak, you’ll have to rely on other methods. Fussiness, lack of interest in eating, holding or rubbing the stomach area, and drawing the legs up toward the abdomen can all be signs of discomfort. Since young children can’t communicate their symptoms verbally, it’s usually better to err on the side of caution when you notice distinct symptoms of abdominal discomfort.

Am I overreacting?

If you child is complaining about (or exhibiting signs of) abdominal pain, the first thing to do is calmly assess the problem. Ask your child to describe the pain or discomfort they feel, and try to make him or her comfortable. Think about recent foods the child may have consumed, or activities in which they may have engaged, that could lead to such symptoms.

If the pain worsens or does not resolve, or if the discomfort is the result of an abdominal injury, head straight to your local urgent care center for treatment. Chances are, it’s nothing serious—but it’s always a good idea to play it safe!

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