What are the Most Common Causes of Stomach Pain in Kids?

Anne Kostuchik

The most common causes of stomach pain in kids are stomach flu, constipation, gas, stress, and food-related pain. Food can cause stomach aches for multiple reasons, including poisoning, allergies, and overeating. Stomach pain that lasts more than 24 hours could indicate a more serious condition, such as appendicitis; if pain persists, immediate medical attention should be sought for the child.

Salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning, can cause stomach pain.
Salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning, can cause stomach pain.

Stomach flu usually is caused by a virus or bacteria. Although use of the term "stomach flu" is common, doctors prefer the word gastroenteritis to describe the condition, which is an inflammation of the digestive tract. In addition to abdominal pain, gastroenteritis often is accompanied by diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. When a child suffering from gastroenteritis also has diarrhea or vomiting, most doctors recommend increasing fluid intake to prevent dehydration.

Food can cause a stomach ache in a child for a variety of reasons.
Food can cause a stomach ache in a child for a variety of reasons.

When a child's stool becomes hard, its passage through the intestines can become painful; this condition is called constipation. A constipated child will often complain that it hurts when he goes to the bathroom. Doctors typically recommend introducing more fiber into the child's diet and also increasing liquid consumption to soften the stool, making it easier to pass.

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A fever is a symptom of gastroenteritis.
A fever is a symptom of gastroenteritis.

Food allergies, food overindulgence, and food poisoning all can lead to stomach pain in kids. Sugary treats can be tempting to a child, leading him to overindulge. Eating too much of certain types of foods, including those that are spicy or fried, can be hard on a child's digestive system, causing bloating and cramps.

A child with lactose intolerance may experience stomach pain after eating products containing lactose, a sugar found in milk and a variety of dairy products Certain over-the-counter medications taken before eating foods containing lactose can help a child prevent gastrointestinal distress. Food poisoning, which can range from mild to severe, also causes stomach pain in kids.

Good old-fashioned stress doesn't only affect adults; a child may feel anxious or worried in anticipation of a test or performance. Usually stress-related stomach pain in kids goes away on its own. If a child continues to suffer, a visit to a therapist or psychologist could help him learn how to better cope with pressure.

Possible signs indicating a more serious medical condition include a child not being able to walk by himself, blood in the vomit or urine, and pain that becomes more intense and frequent. A fever higher than 104°F (about 40°C) is also a very serious sign. A parent should seek emergency medical services if a child experiences any of these symptoms.

An inflamed appendix can be one cause of stomach pain in children.
An inflamed appendix can be one cause of stomach pain in children.

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