Dec 15, 2014

Interview Transcript

Dr. Gellner: 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. I am Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

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Dr. Gellner: 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.

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.

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.

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