Children complaining of stomach pain is common, and some sources – like constipation, food allergies or even appendicitis – are obvious.
But a few illnesses might not come to mind first when considering the source of a child’s stomachache. Here is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about some causes of stomach aches that might surprise parents.
Even though this diagnosis is tied to another relatively distant body part, strep throat can also cause stomach pain.
An infection caused by a bacterium called streptococci, strep throat’s more obvious symptoms are a sore throat and fever, and sometimes vomiting or headaches.
Parents who suspect their child has strep throat should visit the pediatrician, who will swab the child’s throat to test for bacteria. If positive, the physician will prescribe antibiotics.
Urinary tract infection (UTI)
Though the tell-tale sign of a UTI is pain and burning during urination, these infections can also cause discomfort in the abdomen.
UTIs are a common ailment in children, with more than 1.3 million children treated annually for the condition. Girls ages 1 to 5 are more likely than other children to experience a UTI.
Parents who suspect their child has such an infection should visit the pediatrician, who will prescribe an antibiotic following a positive diagnosis.
Learn how to prevent UTIs in children.
Stomach pain can also be the result of sadness, stress or anxiety. Though this type of pain is more common in school-age children, children younger than 5 under unusual stress may also experience it.
Parents should carefully assess the child for other symptoms that might indicate an illness such as fever, vomiting, weakness, pain while urinating, sore throat or diarrhea. If none of those are present, consider other aspects, like timing: Does it wax and wane over a period of more than a week, and surface around activities that are unpleasant or stressful?
A lack of other physical symptoms and pain with curious timing could point to emotional upset. In this case, talk to the child about what’s bothering them. A pediatrician can also suggest ways to help, and, if necessary, refer the child to a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist.
When to call the doctor
No matter the source, stomachaches should be taken seriously. Not all aches require a doctor’s appointment, but here are some signs from the AAP that medical attention is necessary:
- Abdominal pain that comes on suddenly or persists
- The child has other symptoms, such as a change in his bowel pattern, vomiting, fever (temperature of 100.4°F or higher), sore throat or headache
- A baby younger than 1 year shows signs of stomach pain such as legs pulled up toward the abdomen or unusual crying
- A child aged 4 or younger has recurrent stomachache
- If abdominal pain awakes a child or stops him from sleeping