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Tummy Hurts, Mommy! How to Deal with Stomachaches and Spot Red Flags
  • If you’re a parent, chances are you’ve heard “Mom, sakit ng tiyan ko” and “My tummy hurts!” quite a few times already. Treating stomach pain in children, preventing tummy aches, and knowing when the stomachache requires a trip to the emergency room are all important information parents should know about.

    For the basics of stomachaches in children, SmartParenting.com.ph turned to Dr. Caroline Anne Castro, a pediatric gastroenterologist and fellow of the Philippine Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition who holds clinic at De Los Santos Medical Center, Quezon City.

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    “Stomach pain is a common complaint ng maraming mga kids. Most of the causes of stomach pain are benign, meaning mild lang siya. So, usually hindi siya delikado. They’re also self-limiting, meaning short-term lang and they go away on their own,” says Dr. Castro. This includes “kabag” and constipation. Stress and anxiety can also give your child an upset stomach, according to Seattle Children’s.

    Some stomach pain, however, is accompanied with more troubling symptoms that point to something serious. “This is why I want to emphasize the importance of watching out for red flags. These red flags will tell you that your child needs urgent medical care,” Dr. Castro adds. (Keep reading for stomach pain red flags below.)

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    Common causes of stomach pain in children

    A Filipino parent knows that “kabag” is trapped air. Dr. Castro affirms this and adds, “Usually with stomach pain, we feel pain when the colon is stretched and this is what happens when a child gets a kabag. It’s because there’s air. ‘Yun yung masakit.”

    So, how did the air get there in the first place? “As to the cause, madaming puwede,” says Dr. Castro. Constipation is a common reason as stool blockage can prevent air from freely passing and escaping. Lactose intolerance can present itself as air in the colon which then causes stomach pain, explains the pediatrician.

    Gastroenteritis is also common in kids ages 5 to 9, according to Stanford Children’s Health. “Caused by a virus, it usually strikes fast and hard with abdominal discomfort, vomiting, and diarrhea. Most cases ease up quickly.”

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    What to do about tummy aches

    Stomach pain in children usually goes away on their own. In the meantime, there are home remedies that can help alleviate pain and discomfort. Warm compress and mentholated ointments on the area can provide comfort and relief, says Dr. Castro. Ask a pediatrician about medication as well, such as paracetamol.

    Plus, there are few things that can help prevent tummy aches in the first place. Making sure that your child eats balanced, clean meals (with adequate fiber content) and has regular toilet habits may already prevent some causes of stomach pain such as constipation.

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    Signs that stomach pain is something serious

    1. Check the severity of pain. 

    “If the child is complaining about stomach pain, but is still playing, laughing and eating, chances are it's nothing serious,” says pediatrician Dr. William J. Cochran to Stanford Children’s Health. “If the child is complaining about very severe pain and is not doing these things, as they normally do, have the child seen by a doctor right away.

    2. Observe how often your child complains of tummy aches.

    “Severe (very painful), recurrent (happens often), and persistent (won’t go away) abdominal pain warrant a consult with a doctor,” says Dr. Castro. “If you give paracetamol for the stomach pain, for example, but there's something else, like a disease, that's causing the stomach pain, then babalik lang yung pain kapag nag-wear off na yung gamot.”

    3. Watch out for red flags.

    These are symptoms that show your child needs immediate medical attention. These can point to serious problems such as a blockage in the intestine, inflammatory bowel disease, or a serious infection.

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    • Green vomit
    • Abdominal enlargement
    • Tense abdomen
    • Abdominal pain that wakes the child from sleep
    • Bloody stool or vomit
    • Severe dehydration
    • Weight loss

    4. Know how to spot appendicitis. 

    Appendicitis is a surgical emergency. Pain typically starts around the belly button. The pain becomes sharper as it moves to the lower right where the appendix is located and can worsen if pressure is applied to the area and when the patient coughs, moves, or even takes deep breaths. Take your child to the emergency room immediately if you suspect appendicitis.

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