“Mommy, My  Tummy Hurts”

07th August, 2017
Vanessa Papas

As parents, we always fear the worst when our child gets sick. We are wired to worry... and worry we do. A simple cough could be TB, a headache meningitis, a fever Kawasaki. Fortunately, most of the time it turns out that your little one hasn’t contracted some rare and deadly disease after all (deep breath) and is just feeling a little under the weather.

Tender tummies are a particularly common complaint, especially when it comes to toddlers and children under the age of eight. It’s often difficult to gauge whether their tummy ache is serious, or if they’ve just eaten too much ice-cream and a quick trip to the loo will iron out the problem. We take a look at some of the most common (and likely) causes of tummy trouble and how you can help your child feel better.

  • Constipation and gas: The average toddler (if there is such a thing) makes a bowel movement once a day, so if your little one is not ‘going regularly’ and complaining of a sore tummy they could be constipated. Certain foods can trigger constipation and gas. The biggest culprits are processed foods, take-outs, cheeses, white bread and red meats.
    Eating a healthier diet with high-fibre foods like vegetables and wholegrainscan keep stool from getting hard and dry. Fruits, particularly pears, plums, peaches, and pruneshelp tummies work. If your little one doesn’t like whole fruit, fruit juice (or frozen fruit lollies)can sometimes also do the trick. Drinking water won’t eliminate your child’s gas problem, but it will help improve any constipation or difficulty she might have passing stools.
  • Stomach bugs: If your child has cramps, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhoea they might have a bug. The good news is that most stomach bugs will resolve on their own within three days to a week. If your little one refuses to eat, keep them hydrated by giving them lots of fluids. Rehydrate Oral Electrolyte Mixture(available at Dis-Chem) helps replace lost electrolytes and is available in different flavours. Keep in mind that stomach bugs are contagious little buggers so regular and vigorous hand washing is a must, especially after nappy changes and potty trips.
  • Food-related: Food poisoning, food allergies and eating too much can cause bloating, cramps, nausea, vomiting, indigestion and diarrhoea. Usually symptoms appear shortly after your little one has eaten, which helps in identifying the culprit behind the problem.
  • Food allergiesare estimated to affect 4–6% of children and can range from mild to severe. While any food can cause an adverse reaction, eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soyare often to blame for allergic reactions.
  • Food poisoning, on the other hand, is the result of eating contaminated, spoiled, or toxic food with most cases lasting about one to two days and symptoms resolving on their own. If your child vomits once and that’s the end of it, maybe she just ate too much at her last meal. An overloaded tummy can mimic symptoms of other conditions.
  • Parasites: Intestinal worms can be a parent’s worst nightmare and cause a string of problems for your child including tummy pain. While your child can pick up worms from anywhere, the most common places include infected sandpits, playing in contaminated water or eating unclean food. Symptoms of worms include loss of appetite due to the pain or discomfort in the tummy and nausea. Rarely, your child may have vomiting and diarrhoea. If you suspect your child has worms, speak to a Dis-Chempharmacist who may recommend over-the-counter worm medication.
  • Anxiety and stress: Stress and emotional imbalances can disrupt your child’s digestive system and give rise to nausea and vomiting (more common in teenagers than in young children). Stomach problems may also be a secondary symptom to sleep deprivation, which is also common in anxiety. Sleep deprivation alters the way the body processes food and nutrients.
  • Acid reflux: Acid reflux is common in toddlers and a potential cause of vomiting frequently. Your child may need to be tested to see if this is a problem. Talk to the doc about this condition, especially if your toddler is vomiting after eating.
  • Other infections: Congestion or a respiratory infection, such as a cold, can also lead to toddler vomiting, especially while your toddler’s coughing. An ear infectioncan sometimes cause nausea and vomiting. Vomiting may also be a symptom of more serious illnesses like pneumonia, meningitis, appendicitis, and, in rare cases, Reye’s syndrome, that causes swelling in the liver and brain.

Help Them Feel Better

  • Chamomile can help ease the pain of a stomach ache by working as an anti-inflammatory and by relaxing the smooth muscle of the upper digestive track. Some children will drink chamomile while others need a little coaxing. A spoon of honey in the drink can help sweeten the deal.
  • A hot water bottle on a sore tum can help loosen and relax muscles.
  • Because there are thousands of nerves in the feet that help relax the body a little foot rub might be in order. The tummy region corresponds with the centre arch of the left foot so a soft but firm rub around the area may help.
  • Serve your child small amounts of plain foods, like toast, pasta, oatmeal, rice, and apple sauce as bland foods are less irritating to the stomach and easily digested. Yoghurt is particularly effective for basic tummy cramps, and it’s a popular healing food for diarrhoea.
  • If your child is suffering from constipation, hitting the playground can help as being active aids movement through the GI tract.

Expert Advice

  • A child having a tantrum or excessive coughing can trigger the gag reflex and provoke toddler vomiting
  • Motion sickness is a common reason for vomiting. About 50% of kids feel sick to their stomachs while moving in cars or planes
  • Toddlers are prone to stomach upset, due in part to the immaturity of their digestive system
  • Pin-pointing the cause of your child’s tummy ache can be tricky, even if your child can tell you where it hurts. The key isn’t just focusing on where the pain is, but also looking at what other symptoms he’s having
  • Tummy pain that doesn’t go away could be a urinary tract infection.

Appendicitis Explained

Appendicitisis one of the more common reasons your child may need surgery. The appendix is a small, dead-end tube leading from a part of the bowel. If this tube gets blocked, it can cause an infection. Appendicitiscan happen at any age, but is rare in young children. The pain often starts in the middle of the tummy and moves down low on the right side. The tummy becomes sore to touch. This is often worse with coughing and walking around. A child with appendicitis often shows signs of being unwell such as fever, refusing food, vomiting or (sometimes) diarrhoea. An operation is often needed to remove the appendix, although in some cases the problem will settle without surgery.