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5 Signs Your Child’s Digestive Health Needs Help

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WebMD Feature

Kids can be picky or non-stop eaters -- and they'll complain about stomach pain when they’re grumpy, or not say a word when they truly feel bad.

While most kids eventually settle into predictable eating patterns and most childhood stomachaches will go as quickly as they come, some digestive problems in children can be a sign of something more serious. Do you know which red flags to watch for -- and when to call the pediatrician?

Digestive Complaints: When Is It an Emergency?

Whether your child's digestive distress involves vomiting, diarrhea, or it's simply a complaint they can't really pin down, if you're worried -- don't hesitate: Always call your pediatrician.

"Trust your instincts," advises pediatrician Chris Tolcher, MD, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California School of Medicine. You know your child best, so no matter what the digestive problem is, if it concerns you, contact your child's pediatrician right away.

5 Signs It's Time to See a Doctor

Most digestive problems in children are mild and pass quickly. Here are five of the most common, with tips on when to pick up the phone.

Vomiting

Kids throw up for many different reasons. They get a viral infection, motion sick, food poisoning, fever, they cough too much, eat too much, become over-excited, nervous, or worried. They can vomit because of serious diseases such as meningitis, appendicitis, and intestinal blockages. Along with vomiting, kids may also have diarrhea, stomach pain, or fever.

When to call your doctor: Contact your pediatrician if your child has vomited more than once, there is blood or bile in the vomit, or if your child is under 6 and can’t keep liquids down. For older kids, if they have vomited more than twice in a 24-hour period, or the vomit has blood or bile, call your doctor. You should also call your doctor if there is associated fever, diarrhea, or signs of dehydration, which include:

  • Decreased urination
  • Dry lips
  • Decreased energy
  • Your child looks unwell to you
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