“No matter what the cause of the stomachache, the pain is real,” says Dr. Mitchell Katz. So what causes tummy trouble? It can be as specific as an ulcer, a dietary issue, pneumonia or a sinus infection. “Stomachaches are extraordinarily common. Although always a concern, the majority of kids with abdominal pain do not require urgent intervention,” says Dr. Katz.
To decide how serious the pain is and whether it’s organic (like an ulcer or appendicitis) or non-organic (like stress), parents need to pay attention to the location. “If the pain is under the belly button there is a greater likelihood that the pain is nonorganic than if it is further away from the belly button,” says Dr. Katz.
Other common causes of abdominal issues:
- GI tract infection
- Acid reflux
Meds or medical attention?
Parents have to take a step back and judge the severity of the pain when deciding to give their child medications for stomach issues, says Dr. Katz. “If they think the issues are due to something as simple as a few missed bowel movements, there’s no harm in a stool softener. If significant pain is present, it’s always better to call your primary care provider to talk about the condition,” says Dr. Katz.
When will the ache go away?
“The vast majority of stomachaches can be diagnosed and dealt with after an appropriate history and physical examination,” says Dr. Katz. If these red flags are present, call your doctor:
- Blood in stool
- Change in appetite, body weight
- Pain that interrupts sleep
- The age range in which most cases of appendicitis occur: 10-30 Years Old
- The number of hours that heartburn can last: 2 Hours
- The number of Americans that develop at least one ulcer during their lifetime: 25 Million
This article was featured in the Orange County Register on October 27, 2013 and was written by Shaleek Wilson.
Featured pediatric expert
State University of New York at Downstate Medical School
Pediatrics and Pediatric Gastroenterology
Dr. Katz is currently director of CHOC’s multidisciplinary feeding team, pediatric GI lab services, and the division of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition. He was a fellow in pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition at the University of California, San Francisco and is a five-time recipient of the Orange County Medical Association’s Physician of Excellence award.
Dr. Katz’s philosophy of care: “Listening carefully to the child and the parent. Explore where the child and the family are in life and understand the interrelation between health and emotional well-being.”