5 Signs Your Child’s Digestive Health Needs Help
Abdominal pain in kids can be a sign of many problems, including these common complaints:
- Food poisoning
- Gastroenteritis (“stomach flu”)
- Gastritis (inflammation of the lining of the stomach)
- Eating too much
There are many other issues that can cause abdominal pain, which may also be accompanied by bloating, cramping, nausea, or general discomfort. Some less common causes of abdominal pain include:
- Food allergies
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Intestinal obstruction
When to call your doctor:
If your child's abdominal pain "is severe, or going on for more than two weeks," talk to your pediatrician, Tolcher says.
Constipation and Diarrhea
All kinds of things can cause constipation in kids: Potty training stress, a low-fiber diet, lack of fluids or exercise, irritable bowel syndrome, poor bowel habits, diabetes, or medications. Symptoms of constipation include:
- Abdominal pain
- Stomach cramps
- Painful bowel movements
- Fewer than normal bowel movements.
When to call your doctor: If you see blood in your child's stool, call your physician, says Scott Cohen, MD, pediatrician, and author of Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby's First Year.
You'll also want to contact your doctor if your child is not having at least one bowel movement every other day, if movements are painful, if there is blood in the stool, or more than normal pushing is needed during a bowel movement.
GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux)
GERD is common in kids, especially very young children. Many things can trigger the acidic backflow of reflux, including:
- Food allergies
- Problems with the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle at the bottom of the esophagus
When to call your doctor: Fortunately, reflux tends to get better on its own, or can be prevented by avoiding trigger foods like peppermint, chocolate, and fatty foods. Signs that GERD may be serious include:
- Poor weight gain
- Poor appetite
- Vomiting green or yellow fluid
- Stomach or chest pain
- Breathing problems
- Chronic cough
- Crying or moodiness
- Problems swallowing
Picky, Fussy Eating
Picky, limited eating in children should also be a red flag for parents, Tolcher tells WebMD, though such a vague symptom can be a sign of many digestive problems in children. GERD can cause kids to be fussy eaters, the smell or texture of a food can lead to picky behaviors, as can gastrointestinal infections and diarrhea.