Having a stomach ache is tricky. We all have them but symptoms can be hard to describe or too vague to really know what’s going on. Oftentimes, you never get to the bottom of it, but then you feel better and move on, no harm done! There are a million harmless reasons you might hear “my stomach hurts” from your child and a handful of reasons that are worrisome – let’s break them down.
Stomach ache symptoms:
- Dull aches
- Sharp, stabbing pain
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Nausea and/or vomiting
If you’re experiencing diarrhea or nausea/vomiting with your stomach pains, it is likely gastroenteritis (stomach bug). If that sounds like what you or your kiddo are experiencing, pop over to the Kinsa app and let us know so you can get more specific information on that!
Why is my stomach hurting? Other possible causes of stomach pain:
- Constipation (can be a symptom and a diagnosis!)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Food allergy or intolerance – this should grab your attention if your stomach hurts after eating.
- Food poisoning
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Abdominal migraines
- Overeating, especially common in our kids.
When to call your doctor or head to the ER if you have stomach pain?
There are some more serious possibilities, but I don’t want to overwhelm you with those. Instead, let’s look at when it’s time to call your doctor or head to the ER:
- Sharp, sudden pain. Especially if it’s localized to one exact spot.
- Constant pain/crying >2 hours.
- Intermittent pain >24 hours.
- For our babes <2 years old: severe attacks of abdominal pain or crying, followed suddenly by 2-10 minutes of quiet.
- Blood in your stools.
- Black, tarry stools.
- Vomiting blood.
- Vomiting bile (green color).
- Possible poisoning with a medicine, plant, or chemical.
- Pain in the scrotum/testicles – for the fellas.
- Upper abdominal pain, more for our Moms and Pops. This can be indicative of an issue with your heart, especially when accompanied by shortness of breath, nausea, jaw or back pain. It can also be indigestion but better safe than sorry!
- Fever, depending on age:
- 0-3 months: >100.4 F
- 3-24 months: >102 F
- 2 yrs+: >104 F
What else makes your stomach hurt?
Some medications can irritate the stomach lining and cause a stomach ache. If you’re on a new medication, try having a light snack before you take it to see if that resolves the problem. When dealing with stomach pains, avoid Ibuprofen as it can make things worse.
Stomach pains in kids or yourself day after day definitely warrant a visit to the doctor to investigate. Constipation is the most likely culprit in our children, so increase those fluids and get them to eat a fiber-rich diet.
Stress can also cause stomach aches and is often seen in our kiddos – we can never overlook how much our minds affect our physical bodies! Talk with your child about things that may be worrying them, practice relaxation techniques, and make sure they are getting enough sleep.
How to get rid of a stomach ache?
- Lie down and rest.
- Grab a heating pad!
- Stick with a bland diet or hold off on food for a bit if needed.
- Keep sipping fluids – water, ginger ale, etc.
- Try to go potty! (Sorry, Mom voice slipped out there.)
- An antacid may be used if you think you’re dealing with indigestion. Do not use on anyone <5 years old.
What about home remedies for stomach ache?
- Peppermint candy
- Peppermint tea
- Apple cider vinegar. Either take a small shot of it or mix with a cup of water and a teaspoon of honey.
There are many other options for home remedies. I can’t speak to how effective they are, so I’m going to leave them off my list. Nurses like evidence! Take a warm bath or curl up with a heating pad until it resolves. I always say: Follow your gut! And this time I mean that very literally.
Blake Wageman, RN, BSN has over 11 years of nursing under her belt, primarily focused on NICU babies and, just as importantly, their worried parents. She also has two daughters who have kept her on her toes from birth all the way into their tween years. Blake’s passion is giving parents not only the information, but also the comfort and confidence they need to make good decisions for their kiddos.
This content is intended for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from an appropriately qualified and licensed physician or other healthcare provider.