Health Tips for Parents – How To Know When “My Tummy Hurts” Is Real

Belly woes can sometimes be tough to tell if your child is truly sick and if you need to call the doctor. Most times if you ask your child where it hurts, he will point to his belly button area. Most mommies will have a checklist: What do you think you need to make it better? Did you eat all your dinner tonight? Did you go number 2 today? Do you have diarrhea? Did you throw up? Most mommies will  feel the forehead and take the temperature with a thermometer if the illness persists. If your little one says they need their favorite blanket or maybe their animal shaped ice pack and then fall back to sleep, they are usually okay and just need a little attention.

Is it a Real Illness?

However, how do you know when a stomachache is the sign of real illness or when it’s just a behavioral play for attention or to get out of doing something? There are certain signs that are red flags for illness. Some will require immediate medical attention while others can be treated at home with the awareness that the child should be seen by their doctor if there is no improvement.

  • Severity – Is your child playing or is she crying with pain.
  • Timing – How long has the pain been going on? Is it constant pain or does it only last a few minutes.
  • Location – Tell your child to point with one finger. Otherwise they will rub their entire belly button area. Pain located in the lower right side of the belly is possible appendicitis and is an emergency.
  • Triggers -Does it occur after eating certain foods or drinking certain liquids? Food allergies can cause stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea. Gluten intolerance is another reason for stomach pain.
  • Vomiting or Diarrhea – Usually a 24 or 48 hour virus with vomiting/diarrhea can just be a stomach bug. However, if it lasts longer, contains blood or your child is unable to keep fluids down, call your doctor immediately.
  • Constipation – If your child’s pain is better after a BM, then the pain may be related to constipation. Increase your child’s fiber, water, and vegetables for softer stools.
  • Urinary Problems – Stomach pain can be caused by a urinary tract infection or testicular torsion.
  • Rash – If your child has a rash and a stomachache, it could be a sign of a Strep infection. And if your child has hives, then it may be an allergic reaction. Both of these would require immediate attention.
  • Fever – If the fever is 102 or less for less than 3 days and the stomach pain is minimal, you can likely treat your child’s symptoms at home.

What To Do If You Suspect The Complaint Is Behavioral?

Many symptoms have no definite medical cause but are still stressful and upsetting to children. Watch how children act to help determine if immediate medical concern is justified, and listen to what they say to find ways to help alleviate the symptoms. Can a tummy ache be a way of getting attention or a ploy to get out of an activity? The best way to deal with this is to ignore it. The more you talk about it, the more the behavior will be repeated. Move to the next activity, if there are no further complaints, then you know it is just a clever move for attention. If he insists on a cure, give him a placebo, like a medical syringe full of colored water or juice. If the pain improves, you know there is nothing serious causing the pain. When he is not complaining of tummy aches, give him some love and attention. It may take a few weeks but if you stick to it then the imaginary tummy aches may go away.

If you are concerned about your child’s tummy ache, contact us. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Contact Us (859-525-8181) if you have any questions!

Pediatrics of About Pediatrics of Florence

We believe that children are more than just “little adults.” They have unique personalities, challenges, and life circumstances and we have made every effort to make our offices and care as “kid friendly” as possible. We have an aquatic theme in the waiting rooms (separated for sick and well children) as well as themed examination rooms. All of our physicians are Board Certified Pediatricians and members of the American Academy of Pediatrics and our nurse practitioners are all licensed Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and are available to see both well and sick children.
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