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Taming your child’s tummy aches
Why nothing’s moving
Getting going

Serious stomachaches
Serious stomachaches

Although stomachaches in kids are usually minor, the American Academy of Pediatrics says you should contact your pediatrician if your child’s sore stomach gives way to diarrhea or vomiting that’s accompanied by:

  • abdominal swelling and sharp pain
  • blood or bile
  • confusion, lethargy or extreme irritability
  • episodes lasting beyond 12 hours
  • dehydration (signs include scant urine and crying without tears)
  • fever, earache or sore throat
  • headache or head injury
  • deep anxiety or fear

At some point, every child gets a stomachache. Sometimes, it’s from eating too many sweets or from a bug picked up at a friend’s house. In any event, a sore tummy is one of the most frequent ailments in children.

Happily, most stomachaches are easily treated and don’t indicate any underlying problem. Fact is, doctors attribute most childhood stomach trouble to simple constipation.

Why nothing’s moving

To your pediatrician, constipation has nothing to do with how often your child goes to the bathroom but rather what type of stool your youngster produces. If, every third day, stool is soft and long, your child is fine. But if stool is hard and round, then even twice-a-day movement is considered abnormal.

We all know it’s a struggle to get kids to eat nutritious, easily digestible foods. They prefer candy over fruit and hamburgers with fries over soup or salad. The problem is compounded when they choose to keep playing or watching TV instead of answering a natural urge to empty their intestines. So, after a couple of days of eating bulky solids and ignoring nature’s call, voilà, a tummy ache.

Getting going

Fortunately, this cycle is easily treated. Start by making sure your child is drinking enough liquids—kids need 32 to 64 ounces of water daily. To accomplish this, put a special plastic jug or “squeegie” bottle in your refrigerator and instruct your child to drink all the water in it each day.

Children should also eat plenty of fruit and fiber. Let them snack on apple slices, a banana, some whole-grain crackers, a handful or two of dry cereal or a fiber-rich energy bar. And limit the milk and cheese—these tend to bind with foods during digestion.

After big meals, have your child retire to the bathroom for 10 minutes to see what happens. If he or she is successful, the pain should be relieved almost at once. Check to see if the stool is soft; if not, give your child a tablespoon of milk of magnesia at bedtime until stool is normal. Once that happens, stop the magnesia; your child could get diarrhea.