A tummy ache is never something fun, especially if it interferes with day-to-day life or is the result of something more serious.

Stomachaches can be caused by many different things. Your child’s stomachache may not be the result of something in the stomach itself.

Abdominal stomachaches

The abdominal area stretches from the chest to the pelvis, and any number of organs may contribute to or be the cause of the pain. They include the intestines, bladder, kidneys, liver, spleen, pancreas, gall bladder, appendix or adrenal glands.

Your child will not be able to differentiate between these organs, and so may call the discomfort a “tummy ache” even though the trouble is elsewhere in the abdomen.

Stomachaches from infections

Infections can cause vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea. Stomach aches can last for several weeks after an infection. Some infections or gastrointestinal troubles include urinary tract infection, heartburn or vomiting, Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease or food intolerances.

Appendicitis, or infection of the appendix, may result in a stomachache as well. Your child may start with a complaint of a constant stomachache. The pain may move down from the stomach and over toward the right side of the body. Additional signs of appendicitis include fever, vomiting and/or a loss of appetite. 

Food-related stomachaches

Food-related stomachaches typically occur after eating, or a few hours or day later. A food stomachache could be caused by:

• Eating too much or eating too fast

• Gulping or swallowing a lot of air when eating

• Greasy or spicy food

• A food allergy or intolerance

• Food poisoning

Chronic Recurrent Abdominal Pain Syndrome

A common stomachache cause can’t always be treated with a trip to the bathroom or the doctor’s office. Emotional events — both happy and sad — can also cause tummy troubles for kids and adults. These stomachaches may come from bullies, homework or school trouble, the death of a family member, friend or pet, or fighting with or losing a friend.

The first clue of chronic recurrent abdominal pain is the pain comes and goes over a period longer than one week. If your child has these types of stomachaches, he or she often has pain around the belly button and may also have headaches. They will not suffer from other symptoms such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy/weakness, a urinary tract infection, sore throat or have flu-like symptoms.

Additionally, the child is often unable to express their thoughts or feelings. Do your best to get your child to talk about what is bothering him or her. If the pain continues, consider speaking to a psychologist.

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Dr. John Vanderhoof is a board certified pediatrician at Boys Town National Research Hospital with a sub-specialty in Pediatric Gastroenterology. To read more about Dr. Vanderhoof, click here.

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