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Treating Stomach Pains in Children

The Problem: Heave-ho! (vomiting) 

The Cause: There are many reasons kids vomit: fever, ear infection, bacterial infection, food-borne illness, norovirus, rotovirus. But no matter the cause, the messy, smelly end result is the same.

The Treatment: Fluids and time. If your child can't keep anything down, try ice chips. Watch for signs of dehydration (like dark, infrequent urine, dry skin, or tearless weeping)—that's a signal it's time to call the doctor.

Fun Fact: Children whose tummies feel “funny” in the night will navigate any obstacles to reach the side of your bed…and throw up directly onto your pillow.

The Problem: Full of hot air (intestinal gas)

The Cause: A high-fiber diet can lead to more gas, as can eating quickly or swallowing a lot of air, meaning that some kids are gassier than others. But everybody has it.

The Treatment: Nothing to do unless the gas causes your child frequent pain (in which case, call your doctor). Otherwise, just teach your child some manners about it…and then keep your sense of humor when he ignores them!

Fun Fact: Farting is one of the few stomach issues that qualify as hilarious (at least among some age groups). Check out an iphone app (Excuse Me: Farts for free) with various sound effects and funny names for them.

The Problem: All Plugged Up (constipation)

The Cause: It may begin because of a diet with too little fiber, too much milk, or too little water. But once a child has a bowel movement that hurts, he may start to avoid going to the bathroom, which makes the next one and the one after that hurt even more.

The Treatment: Fruit juice, liquids, extra fiber, and lots of encouragement. An over-the-counter children's stool softener will do the trick if the above don't work (check with your doctor).

Fun Fact: If you think diarrhea is messy but constipation is neat, think again. One (gross) word: leakage! When there's stuff stuck inside, liquid will begin to seep out, and your poor kid won't be able to control it.

The Problem: On the run! (diarrhea)

The Cause: Anything that causes vomiting can also cause diarrhea—as can food allergies, too much juice or fruit, artificial sweeteners, parasites, antibiotics…the list goes on and on.

The Treatment: Keep your child hydrated, and keep food bland. Diarrhea can last for days, but call the doctor if your child also has a fever, or if you notice signs of dehydration (see vomiting, above).

Fun Fact: Once a small tummy gurgles, you've got about 30 seconds to find a toilet before the deluge. So make sure you know the location of public restrooms!

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