A stomach ache is one of the most common childhood complaints. Most parents make the simplest of connections assuming that the pain in the stomach must be linked to something their child has eaten that has disagreed with her. However, this blanket assumption does not always hold true. Stomach aches can be a symptom for a variety of ills.
In babies below the age of three months, a stomach ache could signify the dreaded colic. Indigestion can also trigger stomachaches. When the child is around a year old, a stomach ache could be an offshoot of a sore throat, cold or flu. This is just the stomach's way of intimating that it too has been affected by the infection. Constipation could be at the root of a stomach ache. The pain could manifest itself as a dull ache or a sharp shooting pain. In the case of intestinal infections, vomiting and diarrhoea usually accompany the stomach ache. These can also be symptoms of food poisoning. Food poisoning is generally the result of eating food that has not been cooked thoroughly or improperly canned food.
Children with feeding problems often complain of stomach aches when they come to the table at mealtimes. Since stomach aches are easy to fake, parents sometimes do not give their children the benefit of the doubt. Parents assume that they are pretending in a bid to escape eating a meal. However, it is more likely that their stomachs are knotted with anxiety because mealtimes are such an ordeal. That is why it is important that parents try not to make mealtimes a battlefield. The stomach is an organ that reflects extremes of emotion. A child's first day at school can make his stomach clench with tension. Excitement can also trigger diarrhoea in some children.
Stomach aches are also associated with intestinal allergies, inflammation of the abdominal lymph glands, kidney disturbances, etc. However, these cases are more infrequent.
But the stomach ache that parents really worry about is the one that accompanies appendicitis. The appendix is a small offshoot of the large intestine. The appendix sometimes becomes inflamed and in the worst case scenario it can burst spreading infection throughout the abdomen resulting in peritonitis. An inflamed appendix can reach the bursting point in as little as twenty four hours.
Typically, appendicitis begins as a pain concentrated around the region of the navel that continues for a few hours. This pain later shifts to the lower right side of the abdomen closer to where the appendix is located. The symptoms of appendicitis differ from child to child. Some children may vomit a couple of times; others lose their appetite, become constipated or develop fever. Doctors usually diagnose this condition if they discover a tender area in the right side of the child's abdomen when they feel every part of the abdomen.
Thus, when your child clutches her stomach and complains of a tummy ache it is better to err on the side of caution. Irrespective of whether it is a mild or severe pain, acute or chronic, get it checked by the doctor. It may be nothing at all, but it does no harm to rule out any serious possibilities.
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- The Indiaparenting Team