How to cure a childs stomach ache

Learn the common causes and home remedies for stomach pain

Learn the common causes and home remedies for stomach pain

“My stomach hurts.” If you have children, chances are you’ve heard this statement at least once.

Stomach pain is one of the most common complaints among children and teens. It can range from mild discomfort to severe cramping, burning or nausea. While most cases aren’t serious, it’s helpful to know what can cause stomach pain and when to call a doctor.

Here are some of the most frequent causes of stomach problems in small children and teens:

Gas pain or indigestion is common in kids of all ages. Diet often plays a role. Carbonated drinks, such as soda may upset the stomach, especially if the child drinks through a straw. Spicy foods, beans, citrus and caffeine (including chocolate) may cause gas.


Younger kids may not know what constipation is or that it can lead to stomach pain. If your child complains of stomach pain around the belly button or the left lower side of the abdomen, ask them when they last pooped, or if they’re having problems doing it.


Too much of anything, from pizza and popcorn to Halloween candy, can cause abdominal pain. Kids often eat quickly and don’t realize they’re full until they’ve overdone it. Plus, eating too quickly can contribute to discomfort.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and milk products. “In order to digest lactose properly, the body produces an enzyme called lactase,” explains Sangita Bhasin, MD, a pediatrician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Encinitas. “People who do not have this enzyme have a condition called lactose intolerance. When they consume milk products, they may have symptoms such as abdominal cramps, gas, diarrhea or constipation.”

Milk allergy

Milk allergy is a reaction to a protein in milk that may cause cramps. It is not the same as lactose intolerance.


When kids feel stressed or worried, they may feel abdominal pain. “Stomach aches that appear to have no apparent cause may be due to stress, especially if the pain is recurrent. But all the child knows is that their stomach hurts,” says Dr. Bhasin. “When this happens, gently ask the child if they’re worried about something and want to talk about it. There could be problems at school or with friends.”

Stomach virus

Bacterial or viral infections can affect the stomach and may be spread between students at school or in common areas. Stomach pain is often the first symptom, usually followed within 24 hours by vomiting and diarrhea.


If your child complains of severe, constant pain in the low right side of the abdomen and even slight movement is painful, appendicitis may be to blame. Appendicitis is more common in older children and teens; it is unusual in children under age 5.

When to call the pediatrician

Most causes of stomach pain don’t require medical care, but do call your child’s doctor right away if any of the following occur:

  • Pain on the lower right side is severe and constant, which may indicate appendicitis
  • Pain is severe and lasts more than an hour
  • Pain is constant and lasts more than two hours
  • Your child has a fever and/or is vomiting
  • You see blood in your child’s stool
  • Your baby is younger than 12 months

“It’s always better to err on the side of caution,” says Dr. Bhasin. “If you’re concerned about your child’s stomach pain, call the doctor.”

Home treatment for tummy aches

Most stomach aches won’t last more than an hour or two, and often you can help your child feel better by trying these tips:

  • Have your child lie down and rest.
  • Place a warm compress or heating pad on their stomach.
  • Gently massage your child’s belly, which can help with gas and indigestion.
  • Give small sips of water.
  • Check with your doctor before giving any over-the-counter medication. Ibuprofen, for example, can further upset the stomach.
  • If indigestion occurs often, keep a food diary and look for links between certain foods and stomach pain.

Finally, if stomach aches are a frequent problem, talk with your pediatrician. You may be able to work together to identify the cause and make changes to help your child feel better.

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Stomach aches are common in kids—especially in those ages 4 to 8 years old—and the main causes are typically diet, stress, and growing pains. The next time your kid complains of an upset tummy, consider these nine natural home remedies.

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Sip Chamomile Tea

Give your child a cup of chamomile tea (one cup of water per teabag), suggests Andrew Weil, M.D., a leader in the field of integrative medicine, whose books include Spontaneous Healing. “Chamomile tea is an excellent home remedy for uncomplicated stomach upsets because it possesses. anti-inflammatory and sedative properties, all of which may contribute to a lessening of abdominal discomfort,” says Dr. Weil. Chamomile relaxes the muscle of the upper digestive tract, easing the contractions that move food through the stomach and small intestines; this will relieve spasms and tummy cramps.

Drink Ginger

It’s okay to give your child soda when their stomach is hurting, as long as the soda is ginger ale, but fresh ginger tea is even better because it’s chock-full of ginger (and it’s healthier). Ginger’s main ingredient is gingerol, a strong antioxidant that helps decrease the production of free radicals and their potential damage to the body; it also decreases nausea and discomfort. Plus, ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties increase digestive juices and neutralize stomach acids.

Reach for Peppermint

Peppermint tea is also refreshing and can ease the pain of a tummy ache. “Peppermint has been shown to have a calming effect on the stomach muscles,” says William Sears, M.D. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, peppermint has the ability to improve the flow of bile, which the body uses for digestion. If your child refuses to drink tea, a peppermint candy, while not as potent, may settle their stomach (just don’t give these candies to babies or young children, as they can be choking hazards).

Apply Heat

Placing a hot water bottle or heating pad on your little one’s tummy while they’re sitting or lying down should relieve some of the pain, says Robyn Strosaker, M.D., a pediatrician at the Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. The reason: “Heat increases the blood flow to the skin surface, which can diminish the perception of pain coming from deeper in the abdomen,” she explains.

Rub the Foot, Using Reflexology

“There are thousands of nerves in the feet and hands that, when specific techniques are applied, can cause the entire body to relax and feel calmer,” says Laura Norman, a reflexology practitioner and author of Feet First: A Guide to Food Reflexology. The tummy region corresponds with the center arch of the left foot. Using a reflexology technique, hold your child’s left foot with the palm of your right hand, and with your left hand under the ball of the foot, apply a steady, even pressure with your thumb.

Use a forward, caterpillar-like motion (press one spot, move a little forward, and repeat) to go across the foot. Switch hands and repeat from right to left, with the thumb of your right hand, and continue until you cover the center of the arch. “The child will respond positively to their mom’s loving touch, the parent feels wonderful for being able to help their child, and the parent-child connection is strengthened,” Norman adds.

Serve Bland Foods

If your child still has an appetite despite the tummy ache, let them eat small amounts of plain foods, like toast, pasta, oatmeal, yogurt, rice, and applesauce. Avoid sauces, condiments, or seasonings. “Bland foods are less irritating to the stomach and more easily digested than spicy or greasy foods,” says Dr. Strosaker. “These foods are not only less likely to induce vomiting, but they will help the gastrointestinal (GI) tract return to normal function more quickly.”

Snack on Yogurt

Yogurt is effective for basic tummy cramps, and it’s a popular healing food for diarrhea, Dr. Sears says. “Normally, ‘good’ bacteria live in your intestines that help with digestion,” he explains. “If you have an intestinal virus or diarrhea, good bacteria can get flushed out, which can prolong the duration of the symptoms.” Eating yogurt with live cultures (or mixing it with a powdered supplement like Culturelle) provides the active bacteria that can help get digestion back to normal.

Follow the CRAP Diet

Is your child’s tummy hurting because of constipation? Michael Roizen, M.D., co-author of YOU: Raising Your Child, along with his colleagues Ellen Rome, M.D., and Mehmet Oz, M.D., came up with an easy (and memorable!) acronym to remember how to help your kid. “Appropriately named the CRAP diet, it stands for fruits with fiber that can act to naturally ‘loosen things up’: cherries, raisins, apricots, and prunes,” says Dr. Roizen. If your school-age child is getting less than five servings of fruit a day, give them a half cup of any of these fruits, three to five times a day. “For kids under four, it’s smart to puree these foods to decrease the risk of choking,” he adds. Toddlers should be eating a half cup.

Encourage Outdoor Activities

If your child is suffering from constipation, Dr. Roizen says it’s the perfect time to hit the playground. “Physical activity can aid movement through the GI tract, whereas lying in bed can actually induce constipation,” he explains. “And while this treatment is less scientific-mechanism-based than others, it works!” Acceptable activities include walking, moderate running, playing outside, or playing an “active” video game. Advise your child to hold off on the more “tummy turning” activities, such as twirling, hanging on the monkey bars, and doing cartwheels.

In this Article

  • Call 911 if:
  • Call Doctor If:
  • Treating Symptoms of Your Child’s Stomachache

Call 911 if:

  • The child isn’t moving.
  • The child is too weak to stand up.

Knowing that a child has a stomachache or nausea can be hard, but pain lessens within two hours in most cases.

Call Doctor If:

The child has a stomachache and any of the following:

  • Pain that happens more often or gets worse
  • Pain that moves from the belly button to the lower right of the abdomen
  • Trouble walking because of pain
  • No appetite for a day or longer
  • Green or yellow vomit or vomit that contains blood or flecks that look like coffee grounds
  • Symptoms of dehydration such as darker urine and fewer wet diapers
  • Black or bloody stool
  • Problems passing stool
  • A rash that looks like bruises on the legs and buttocks
  • Headache and sore throat along with stomach pain
  • Pain when urinating

Treating Symptoms of Your Child’s Stomachache

  • Have the child lie down and rest.
  • Don’t give the child fluids for about 2 hours after the last vomiting episode. Then give the child clear fluids such as water or flat soda. Start with just a sip at a time.
  • Keep a container nearby in case the child vomits.
  • If the child vomits more than once, watch for signs of dehydration, such as decreased urination or dry diapers, dry lips, and crying without tears.
  • If you think the child could be constipated, put them on the toilet. Passing a stool may ease the pain.
  • Sit the child in warm water to help release a stool if you think the child is constipated.
  • Avoid giving ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), pain medicine, or laxatives.

Show Sources

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Abdominal Pain.”

The Nemours Foundation: “Stomachaches.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Vomiting and Diarrhea in Children.”

  • What Is It?
    • Stomach Pain (Abdominal Pain) in Children Facts
  • Symptoms/Signs
    • What Are the Symptoms and Signs of Stomach Pain in Children?
  • Call a Doctor
    • When Is Stomach Pain in Children Serious?
  • What Causes It?
    • What Causes Stomach Pain in Children?
  • Diagnosis of Cause
    • What Tests Diagnose the Cause of Stomach Pain in Children?
  • Medicine Treatment
    • What Medicine Treats Stomach Pain in Children?
  • Natural/Home Remedies
    • What Natural Home Remedies Treat Stomach Pain in Children?
  • Guide
    • Stomach Pain (Abdominal Pain) in Children Topic Guide
    • Doctor’s Notes on Abdominal Pain in Children Symptoms

Stomach Pain (Abdominal Pain) in Children Facts

  • Abdominal pain is one of the most common reasons for a parent to bring his or her child to medical attention.
  • Symptoms and signs of stomach pain in children include gas (flatulence), rubbing around the belly button, especially if the pain is located low and down on the right side of the abdomen, you “just know” that the child is very sick, pale appearance, sweating, sleepiness or listlessness, vomiting; however, if it does not go away (Although, vomiting does not always go away.), diarrhea, fever, groin pain, urinary problems, and a rash. Moreover, stomach pain in children depend on if the pain comes and goes (intermittent), the location of the pain, if the pain is acute or chronic, and how severe the pain is.
  • Possible causes for a child’s stomach pain range from trivial to life-threatening, with little difference in the child’s complaints.
  • Fortunately, abdominal pain in a child usually improves quickly.
  • Stomach pain in children is serious if the he or she has a high fever, has had diarrhea longer than 24 hours, or has been vomiting longer than 24 hours.
  • Each parent or caregiver faces the difficulty of deciding whether a complaint needs emergency care or not.

What Are the Symptoms and Signs of Stomach Pain in Children?

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A parent or caregiver usually can notice pain in a child’s abdomen. Infants and very young toddlers may cry, express pain facially, and curl up. Young children are usually quick to tell you what is wrong. Some teenagers may be reluctant to report pain, and you must try to get a clear explanation of what they are feeling. Ask about these conditions:

  1. Duration of the pain: Most simple causes of abdominal pain do not last long. Most of us have experienced gas pains or the stomach/gut flu, and recall that the pain was usually gone within 24 hours. Any abdominal pain that continues longer than 24 hours should be evaluated by a physician.
  2. Location of the pain: Most simple pains are located in the center of the abdomen. The child will rub around his or her belly button. Pain felt in other areas is more concerning. This is especially true of pain located low and down on the right side of the abdomen. Pain in that area should be considered as appendicitis until proven otherwise.
  3. Appearance of the child: As a general rule, if the child looks very ill in addition to being in pain, medical help should be sought. Often, the caregiver “just knows” the child is very sick. When abdominal pain occurs, key things to look for include pale appearance, sweating, sleepiness or listlessness. It is most concerning when a child cannot be distracted from the pain with play, or refuses to drink or eat for several hours.
  4. Vomiting: Children vomit quite frequently with abdominal pain, but vomiting does not always indicate a serious problem. However, as with the duration of the pain, most simple causes of vomiting go away very quickly. The rule again is that vomiting for longer than 24 hours is a legitimate reason to call the physician.
  5. Nature of the vomiting: In infants and very young children, vomiting that is green or yellow is a reason to call the doctor. At any age, vomiting that appears to contain blood or darker material is a reason to seek emergency care.
  6. Diarrhea: Diarrhea is also common with abdominal pain and usually indicates that a virus is the cause. This can continue for several days but usually only lasts less than 72 hours (three days). Any blood in the stool is a reason to seek medical care.
  7. Fever: The presence of fever does not always indicate a serious problem. Indeed, a normal temperature can be seen with the more serious causes of abdominal pain.
  8. Groin pain: One serious problem that a boy may describe as abdominal pain actually comes from somewhere else. It is testicular torsion, a condition in which a testicle twists on itself and cuts off its own blood supply. The child may be embarrassed to mention the location, so you should ask if there is any pain “down there.” A testicular problem is usually easy to fix if treated early enough. So, if a child complains of pain in the groin area or testicles, seek medical emergency care.
  9. Urinary problems: Abdominal pain associated with any trouble urinating, such as painful or frequent urination, could indicate an infection and is a reason to seek medical care.
  10. Rash: Certain serious causes of abdominal pain also occur with a new rash. The combination of skin rash with abdominal pain is a reason to contact your doctor.


When Is Stomach Pain in Children Serious?

For a child with severe stomach pain, go to your nearest Emergency Department if the child has a high fever, has had diarrhea or vomits longer than 24 hours,.Stomach pain left identified and treated early carries a good prognosis overall; however, pain undiagnosed and untreated can be life-threatening. For serious conditions, treatment can be as extensive as hospital admission and surgery.

A parent or caregiver should work with the pediatrician and hospital early in the child’s illness to ensure the child receives appropriate care.

Stomach pain in children is very often caused by wind and indigestion, neither of which is serious.

A sore tummy might also be a sign of infections like food poisoning, gastroenteritis, pneumonia or urinary tract infections.

Anxiety or stress can cause ‘butterflies’ in the tummy.

Severe stomach pain might be caused by more serious illnesses like appendicitis or intussusception, which is when part of the intestine slides into or over itself.

Tummy pain that keeps coming back might be associated with constipation, food intolerances or inflammation in the gut.

In adolescent girls, stomach pain can be caused by reproductive issues, including period pain, a twisted ovary and ectopic pregnancy.

Sometimes stomach pain is functional abdominal pain. This means that the stomach is very sensitive, even to the normal movement of food through the digestive system.

Symptoms related to stomach pain

The symptoms that come with stomach pain depend on what’s causing the stomach pain.

For example, if the stomach pain comes with symptoms like loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, the problem could be gastroenteritis or food poisoning.

Stomach cramps and general stomach pain might be associated with food intolerance, excess wind, indigestion and bloating.

Tummy pain that doesn’t go away could be constipation or a urinary tract infection. Children with a urinary tract infection might also have pain when doing a wee and be doing more wees than normal. They might also have a fever, be vomiting and feel irritable.

Tummy pain might also be associated with pneumonia or other respiratory infections. In this case, your child will probably also have a fever, cough and possibly a sore throat.

A sore tummy is more likely to be a sign of something serious if it wakes your child up, or if the pain is in a specific area of the abdomen, away from your child’s belly button. For example, in appendicitis, the pain is usually sharp, and the pain often starts in the middle then moves to the lower right section of the abdomen. Your child might also have fever, loss of appetite and vomiting.

With all types of stomach pain, there’s a risk that your child will become dehydrated. You should watch for signs of dehydration, including sunken eyes, less urination than usual, lethargy and weight loss.

Does your child need to see a doctor about stomach pain?

You should take your child to see your GP if your child:

  • complains of severe pain in the tummy or it wakes them from sleep
  • has tummy pain that doesn’t go away, or that keeps coming and going
  • is unwell or has a fever in addition to the pain
  • complains that the pain gets worse when they move
  • has diarrhoea or vomiting that doesn’t go away
  • is losing weight or has pain that affects their energy levels.

Take your child to a hospital emergency department straight away if your child has:

  • bloody or green vomit
  • blood in their poo
  • symptoms of severe dehydration, including little or no urination, weight loss, tiredness and extreme thirst.

If you think your child has swallowed something poisonous, call the Poisons Information Centre on 131 125 for advice.

Treatment for stomach pain

To help your child feel more comfortable, you can give paracetamol or ibuprofen according to the instructions on the packet.

It’s also important to make sure that your child gets enough fluids to prevent dehydration, as well as plenty of rest. Distracting your child from the pain and using relaxation strategies can help too.

Do not give your child aspirin for any reason. Aspirin can make your child susceptible to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal illness. It can also cause serious illness or even death in children with chickenpox or flu symptoms.

Stomach Ache In Children: Causes & Treatment

Seen your child clutching their tummy and bawling? There’s nothing unusual about it. Most children do, especially those in the age group of 3 – 11. But children complaining and crying of a stomach ache is no pretty sight. It can give you sleepless nights, make you worried and stressed. Let’s take a look at the causes of stomach ache in children and the treatment options.

Abdominal pain, its causes and treatment

In the majority of cases, abdominal pain can be harmless. But it’s not advisable to rule it out because it can also be a symptom of a variety of medical conditions. While in most cases, the condition can be treated at home, in less than 5% cases, the situation can be an emergency, requiring immediate hospitalisation and medical attention.

Some of the most common causes of abdominal pain are as follows:

Indigestion: What is often referred to as tummy upset, indigestion is caused by a wide range of reasons including overeating, binging on junk food, drinking too many fizzy drinks, etc.

Treatment: Give your child warm water to drink, tuck them into bed and place a hot water bag on their stomach may make them feel better. If the pain persists, give them antacid.

Constipation: This may cause stomach pain as well as nausea and vomiting.

Treatment: A fibre-rich diet along with gentle laxatives can relieve the condition.

Gastroenteritis: A viral or bacterial infection can be the cause of the condition which results in diarrhoea, abdominal pain, vomiting and fever.

Treatment: It requires medical intervention including a stool examination.

Worm infestation: Often, roundworms cause this problem. Affects children who live in conditions where poor sanitation and contaminated water supply are common.

Treatment: Administering a course of anti-worm medications can put an end to the pain.

Chronic recurrent abdominal pain: Seen in late childhood (8 – 15 years), the condition is more common in girls than in boys. Typically there will be three or more episodes of severe abdominal pain along with vomiting and headache in a span of 3 – 4 months

Treatment: To rule out physical reasons, it requires seeing a physician.

No medication without doctor’s advise

In matters of children, be extra cautious. While home remedies such as warm water or hot water bags are fine for children, refrain from providing any medications to them without doctor’s advice. If your child complains of a severe stomach ache, take them to a doctor. If the problem persists, get them checked and make sure that it’s not a sign of a serious underlying health condition. At any circumstances, don’t try to give medication to your child, it can make matters worse.

Stomach pain is common in children. By encouraging them to eat healthy, avoid junk food and include fibre-rich foods in their diet can greatly help children to limit/avoid bouts of tummy ache.

“My tummy hurts!” If you’re a parent, this is a cry you probably hear pretty often.

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The good news is, in most cases, abdominal pain is not serious and gets better with little or no treatment.

Causes for a child’s aching belly can range from trivial to life-threatening, including infections, food poisoning, constipation or acid reflux. However, when it’s recurrent and a specific cause has not been identified, treatment can be a challenge.

Pediatric gastroenterologist Sophia Patel, MD, shares common causes of stomachaches in tots and teens, along with advice on when to call or visit the doctor.

What is causing your child’s stomachache?

“Stomachaches in children are common, but because kids cannot fully articulate symptoms, it’s important for parents to be aware of certain symptoms,” says Dr. Patel.

Here are five reasons your child’s stomach may be hurting:

1. “Stomach flu” (but it’s not really the flu)

Gastroenteritis, which can bring on a stomachache in children, is typically caused by a virus. It usually includes diarrhea, with or without vomiting, and possibly a low-grade fever. It will usually run its course in three to five days without a need for a doctor’s help. Be sure to have your child drink plenty of fluids.

A trip to the doctor or possibly the emergency room is in order if:

  • There’s blood in your child’s stool or vomit.
  • Your child’s symptoms last longer than five days.
  • Your child has a high fever.
  • Your child is showing signs of dehydration, such as dry lips, decreased urine, pale skin or listless behavior. These are signs that something more serious could be wrong.

2. Reflux/acid irritation

We tend to think of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) as an adult problem, but it’s also common in kids and babies. GERD is often tough to pinpoint, especially in very young children, but these symptoms can be strong indicators:

  • Vomiting.
  • Complaining of a sour taste in their mouth.
  • Pain in the upper abdomen.
  • Excessive burping.

Most kids outgrow GERD over time, but it can typically be treated with antacids and, if necessary, medications called H2 blockers such as Pepcid®, or proton-pump inhibitor drugs such as Nexium® or Prevacid.® Changes in the diet can help, too. Kids with GERD should avoid foods and drinks like soda, orange juice, tomato-based products and spicy foods. Medications such as ibuprofen can also irritate the stomach.

3. Constipation

“Constipation is one of the most common causes of abdominal pain in kids,” says Dr. Patel. Adding more fiber and water to a child’s diet can really help. Watch for rectal bleeding, though. It could signal something more serious.

Frequent issues with constipation that don’t seem to resolve can point to other medical conditions such as celiac disease, an underactive thyroid gland or other conditions that need further medical attention.

4. Dehydration

Drinking a lot of fluid is important, and not just to keep kids hydrated during a bout of gastroenteritis. Drinking enough fluids will help them maintain healthy bowel function.

At least half the fluid a child drinks should be plain water.

Avoid soda and other sugary drinks, including sweetened juices, flavored waters and sports drinks. Too much sugar can actually cause stomachaches — not to mention obesity and the long-term health problems associated with it.

5. Other, less-common issues

Most of the time, a stomachache shouldn’t cause alarm. But parents should be mindful of how long it lasts and any other symptoms that come with it.

Sudden pain in a child’s lower right abdomen is a sign of appendicitis, and you should seek immediate medical attention for your child.

Recurring tummy aches that seem like gastroenteritis could really be a sign of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – especially if you have a family history of IBD. Frequent stomachaches can also be caused by irritable bowel disease, food allergies, celiac disease, parasites and lactose intolerance.

So if your 8-year-old complains of stomach pain all the time, or your toddler’s belly ache seems like something more, listen to your parental “gut” and don’t be afraid to reach out to your child’s doctor.

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It can be difficult to know the cause – and cure – for abdominal pain, especially in children. Pediatrician Dr. Cindy Gellner lists some common causes of abdominal pain as well as simple home treatments for the discomfort. Some of the causes might surprise you.

Your child comes to you and says they have a bellyache. Tummy aches are a common issue with kids. When to worry about that and what to do to help your child.

Common Causes for Stomach Pain

So abdominal pain is something we see very often and there’s a whole bunch of reasons why kids can have abdominal pain. They can have abdominal pain because they’re overeating; we see that a lot usually around holidays, like Halloween, they eat too much candy. Christmas, they eat too much of the good yummy stuff that we see around the holidays. They can also have gas pains if they’re drinking too much soda. They can have indigestion from spicy foods. For example, I see a lot of kids that eat hot Cheetos and then they come in and tell me that their stomach hurts. The hot Cheetos are the cause of that stomachache.

Quite often as well, I see kids coming in for stomachaches because of constipation. They’ll say their stomach hurts around their belly button and then when you start asking questions about their bowel movements, it turns out they haven’t gone for awhile or when they go, it’s hard to get out. So ask your child if they have a stomachache, if they’ve pooped recently.

We are also seeing a stomach virus going around and a lot of kids will come in and say they have a stomachache, but they haven’t had the vomiting or diarrhea because the stomachache just started that day and the parents are concerned. But the vomiting and diarrhea start within 24 hours of the stomachache.

A serious cause of abdominal pain that is always one that we worry about is appendicitis. And you need to worry about appendicitis if the pain is on the low right side of your child’s abdomen. Your child won’t hop up and down and they prefer to lie still, unable to move, even the slightest, without holding on to the lower right side of his or hers stomach.

We often see a lot of kids coming in with stomachaches at the beginning of the school year. Those stomachaches that keep coming back, they also say they’re around the belly button, they feel like they’re in the, quote, “pit of their stomach.” That’s because of stress. And kids can’t really explain stress that well, they just say their tummy hurts. And kids that have recurrent stomachaches often have some sort of stressors, whether it’s something going on at school or something going on at home that they’re worried about. So your child continues to talk about belly pain around their belly button, ask them if they’re worried about anything.

Home Treatment for Stomach Pain

So how long does stomach pain normally last? Well, that all depends on the cause. With harmless causes, the pain is usually better or gone in about two hours. Either that or you’ll see new symptoms, like the vomiting, the diarrhea, usually they’ll pass gas if it’s from gas pains, things like that. What if they have stomach pain from indigestion? Well the first thing they should do is just lie down. Quite often lying down and not focusing so much on the belly pain does make it better. You can give them belly rubs, you can have a warm washcloth or a heating pad on their stomach and that will make them feel better, too.

Avoid giving your child any solid foods and allow only sips of clear fluids if they’re vomiting. If they continue to try and eat normally, the vomiting will continue and their stomach pain will get worse. If your child hasn’t gone to the bathroom for a little while, have them go sit on the toilet and see if having a bowel movement will help with their belly pain.

And finally, we usually don’t recommend giving any medication for stomach cramps unless you know the cause. Obviously if it’s because of constipation and this is a chronic problem, give them their constipation medication. But if you don’t know what the cause is, don’t give your child Tylenol or Motrin to help the stomach pain. Try and figure out with your pediatrician what the cause of the stomach pain is so that you can help them if this happens again.

If your child has stomach pain because of stress or worry and it’s something going on at school, be sure to talk with the child about what’s going on and then relay those concerns to the officials at the school. Talk to the teachers, talk to the principal, see if you can resolve the problem that was causing their stomachache.

When to See A Professional

So when should you call your child’s health care provider? Call immediately if the pain is severe and has lasted more than an hour or its constant and has lasted more than two hours. Or if you are worried about appendicitis or if the pain actually extends into the scrotum or testicles of boys. You may be advised to go to the children’s emergency room for further testing that may not be able to be done in your doctor’s office to evaluate for those serious causes that may need a surgeon.

So abdominal pain is something that again, we see very often and there are so many things that could cause it. By working with your child’s doctor, you can figure out what the cause of the pain is and a plan to help your child.

updated: May 24, 2021
originally published: December 15, 2014

What’s a Stomachache?

You wake up in the middle of the night with stomach cramps, clutch a pillow and curl your body around it. That helps a little and you go back to sleep. But in the morning, the pain is still there. “Ouch, I have a stomachache!” you tell your mom or dad.

Why Does Belly Pain Happen?

Pain is the body’s way of telling us that something’s going on. Belly pain alerts us to something that’s happening inside us that we might not know about otherwise.

Some reasons for belly pain are easy to spot, like when someone gets hit in the gut or eats spoiled macaroni salad. Oher times, it might be hard to figure out.

When you get a pain in your stomach, it might be an actual problem right in your stomach, but not necessarily. Your abdomen is more than your stomach. It’s more than your intestines. It’s the whole area between your chest and your pelvic (hip) bones. With so many organs in the abdomen, different problems can have similar symptoms.

Types of Tummy Troubles

Here are some of the things that cause tummy troubles:

  • Constipation is a top reason kids get belly pain. If you haven’t had a bowel movement (poop) for a while or if it hurts to go to the bathroom or your bowel movements are hard, you are probably constipated.
  • Diarrhea is often caused by an infection that some people call “the stomach flu.” When you have diarrhea — runny, watery bowel movements — you may also feel sick to your stomach. The pain is one way your body tells you to stay near a bathroom!
  • Other belly troubles. Belly pain also can happen with a urinary tract infection or a blocked intestine. Infection by bacteria or a parasite, heartburn, irritable bowel disease, or inflammatory bowel disease also can cause it.
  • Something you eat. Some kids get belly pain because they ate too much of something, a food that was too spicy or greasy, or food that sat around in the fridge for too long and went bad.
  • Food intolerance or food allergy. Some people have foods that are hard for them to digest. This is called a food intolerance. For example, people with lactose intolerance have a tough time digesting lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy foods. A food allergy is different, and some can be very serious. Food allergies can cause immune system reactions that can harm the body. Someone with a food allergy must always avoid that food.
  • Appendicitis. If the pain starts by your belly button and then moves to the lower right side of your belly, it might be appendicitis. Fever or vomiting, along with pain that gets worse and worse and a loss of appetite, also can be signs of appendicitis.
  • An infection someplace else in your body may cause belly pain too. A sore throat, pneumonia, an ear infection, or a cough can sometimes cause tummy trouble.
  • Stress. Many, many kids (and adults, too) have a “nervous stomach” when they are worried or stressed.

How Do Doctors Find the Cause of a Bellyache?

Your doctor will first ask you some questions, examine you, and maybe do some tests. Your doctor may suggest you take some medicine or might give you special instructions for eating to help your body heal the bellyache.

If it turns out that you have appendicitis, you will need an operation called an appendectomy (say: app-en-DEK-tuh-mee).

If stress is behind your stomach problems, your doctor may recommend a specialist, such as a psychologist. These experts can help kids figure out the source of the stress and help them come up with some ideas for how to fix the problems or handle them better.

How Can I Prevent Belly Pain?

If you’d like to prevent bellyaches, here are some good tips to follow:

  • Don’t overeat.
  • Eat fiber-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, so your bowel movements are regular.
  • Drink lots of fluids, especially water.
  • Wash your hands before eating.
  • Don’t eat right before bedtime.
  • Get lots of sleep so your body doesn’t get run down.

If you have a bellyache, be sure to let an adult know what’s going on!

Conditions like irritable bowel syndrome can be debilitating for kids and teens, but treatment is not ‘one-size fits all.’

At some point, virtually every child gets a stomachache. Fortunately, it’s usually short-lived and not cause for concern. But what happens when a child’s stomach troubles—including pain and constipation or diarrhea—don’t go away? Harry Cynamon, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), talks about the elusive nature of irritable bowel syndrome in children, the all-important gut-brain connection—and what signs could point to more serious illness.

How does a parent know when a child’s stomach problems are serious?

In most cases, they aren’t serious. But obviously, if the symptoms aren’t going away, or are getting worse, parents need to take the child to the pediatrician to find out what’s going on. Certain issues are particular red flags, such as throwing up blood or passing blood, or losing weight, or not growing properly.

What kinds of patients do you see?

Typically, a pediatrician will refer a patient to me if a child isn’t responding to treatment or needs further evaluation. I see children of all ages—from infants to teenagers—with a wide variety of gastro-intestinal disorders or liver disease. One of the most common problems I treat is stomach pain, which can be caused by a lot of things, but is often due to irritable bowel syndrome.

What is irritable bowel syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition characterized by chronic abdominal pain, along with either constipation or diarrhea. It’s no fun, and it can be debilitating. But when we do tests, the GI tract is normal; there’s no inflammation or damage. We don’t know what causes it, although it may be linked to complex interactions between the gut and brain, and stress and anxiety can play a role. In fact, kids sometimes feel that the adults around them don’t believe that they’re sick. But this is a real condition; it’s not imaginary.

How do you treat irritable bowel syndrome?

It’s not just, “Take this pill and it will cure you.” We often use a constellation of treatments—a special diet, exercise, stress-reduction techniques like yoga or acupuncture, or working with a school counselor and resolving any stressful school-related issues. While there are medications for irritable bowel for adults, they often don’t work well in children. That said, I had one young boy who’d had severe stomach pain for months and had missed many weeks of school. It was a medication that finally did the trick.

How is irritable bowel syndrome different from inflammatory bowel disorder?

They can cause some similar symptoms, but they’re quite different. With irritable bowel syndrome, the GI tract is normal. But inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is a serious autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the body, particularly the intestine, and causes inflammation. There are medications for it, but there’s no cure. IBD is on the rise in kids.

We don’t know. It’s actually on the rise in adults, too. It’s not just that we’re getting better at diagnosing it; the incidence is rising. Nationwide, it’s thought that about 100,000 kids under 18 have IBD. But it’s still much less common than irritable bowel syndrome.

Why are stress and anxiety so often linked to stomach problems?

Because the brain and gut are connected. The gut contains millions of neurons; it basically has its own nervous system. Some scientists have even termed it a “second brain.” There’s a whole field now, called neurogastroenterology, that studies this complex interaction between the gut and brain.

What can parents do to promote a healthy GI tract in their children?

A healthy diet, high in fiber, with lots of fruits and vegetables, is important, along with plenty of fluids and regular exercise. In addition, studies have shown that breastfeeding plays a big role in helping babies develop healthy gut flora, with lots of beneficial bacteria. We also know that aggressive use of antibiotics early in life puts a child at higher risk of developing IBD. So it’s important to not over-use antibiotics. But a parent can do everything right, and a child still may develop digestive troubles. The gut is complicated, and solutions are not one-size-fits-all. We work with each family to come up with an individualized treatment plan that works best for their child.