Q: My 8-year-old daughter often complains of stomach aches. How do I know when to bring her to the doctor?
A: Tummy troubles are common in children (and adults). A number of different things can cause someone’s stomach to hurt and it can sometimes be a challenge to figure out the culprit. Most of the time, the pain isn’t something to be worried about and may just be from gas or constipation.
There are times, however, when stomach aches can be a sign of something serious.
First, ask your daughter about the pain. If it’s general pain in more than half of the stomach area, it’s likely caused by indigestion, gas or a virus. Pain that’s only in one part of the stomach can be a sign of a problem in a specific organ, such as a stomach ulcer or an inflamed appendix. Cramping is usually a sign of gas and bloating and often includes diarrhea.
You might also want to keep a log of your daughter’s stomach pain to see if any patterns emerge. Is it happening at a certain time of day or after she eats a certain kind of food? For example, does her stomach hurt before going to dance class? Maybe that’s a sign she is nervous about the class because she doesn’t know anyone there. Does she have stomach pain and diarrhea after consuming dairy products? Maybe she has intolerance to a certain kind of food.
Once you know more about what kind of pain she’s having, contact your doctor if your child has:
Any abdominal discomfort that lasts for a week or longer
Abdominal pain that doesn’t get better within 24 hours or gets worse
Burning sensation during urination
Diarrhea for more than two days or vomiting that lasts for more than a day
Pain along with a fever over 100.4 degrees
Poor appetite and/or unexplained weight loss
Contact your doctor immediately if your daughter has blood in any vomit, urine or bowel movements or if the pain starts by her belly button and moves to the lower right abdomen and becomes more severe. Those are both symptoms of more serious problems that may need immediate attention.
By Jennifer Frank, MD, family physician, ThedaCare Physicians-Neenah West.