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When it’s more than a tummy ache

Childhood tummy troubles are as common as skinned knees and mosquito bites, but some stomach ailments are a symptom of something that needs more attention.

Experts share when to take a tummy ache seriously.

A child with a stomachache is not an infrequent sight for moms or school nurses, but tummy troubles can have a huge number of different causes. Here are a few situations where you might need to take your little one in to be looked at by a professional.

Chronic tummy aches

A stomachache may be the sign of a virus — one that brings about unpleasant happenings, such as vomit and diarrhea, but generally those types of viruses are short-lived. It’s the ones that seem to show up every day that can become worrisome. Constipation is one of the top causes of chronic stomach pain, but more serious issues, such as celiac disease or a food allergy. If your child doesn’t respond to increased fiber, more fruits and vegetables, and plenty of fluids, you might consider taking your child to the doctor to get her checked out.

Sudden abdominal pain

Some types of stomach or abdominal pain can signal a problem that needs to be taken care of right away. Appendicitis is an example of sudden onset abdominal pain, starting out in the center of the abdomen and gradually moving to the lower right. This type of pain tends to slowly get worse and the child will be unable to get comfortable. It can also be accompanied by a refusal to eat or walk, and sometimes vomiting. “Keep in mind that many illnesses start off with vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and belly pain,” writes pediatrician Dr. William Sears. “Don’t jump to the conclusion of appendicitis until you have observed your child for several hours.”

Sign of other troubles

Other times, a childhood tummy ache can be a sign of psychological stress or emotional troubles. “Many times our feelings and worries come out in our bodies, especially if we are not conscious of our feelings or believe we cannot talk about them,” Karen Carnabucci, psychotherapist at the Lake House Health & Learning Center, told us. “For instance, a child who is being bullied at school may develop stomachaches every morning. The child may not develop the stomachaches ‘on purpose’ but the body may be responding to the anticipation of being hurt or bullied at school. For these reasons, it is helpful for parents and other adults to be sensitive to their child’s reports of how their bodies may be feeling.”

Overall — if your instinct tells you that something just isn’t right and home remedies aren’t working out, don’t hesitate to take your child in to be seen. And if you don’t get results, be your child’s advocate and get another opinion.

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