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Tummy Troubles

Chronic Recurrent Abdominal Pain (RAP)

When there seems to be no other explanation for a child's discomfort, pediatricians often label repeat tummy troubles as RAP. As many as 10 to 30 percent of children and teens are believed to suffer from this condition, which is usually defined as several episodes of stomach pain per week severe enough to interfere with what a child is doing, that occur for a period of more than three months. Children with RAP will usually complain of pain around the bellybutton and may experience associated symptoms of nausea, flushing, light-headedness, or headaches. These can occur at any time, but are usually fleeting: A kid with RAP may suddenly get a tummyache in the middle of playing a game or doing homework and have to lie down for a few minutes until it subsides.

Although the exact cause of such chronic discomfort isn't known, there's some evidence to suggest that it's due to a child's heightened sensitivity to the squeezing of the bowels. It may also be that children with RAP don't empty their stomachs in a normal way or have abnormalities in the way the intestines push food along. RAP tends to show up when a child reaches 5 or 6, and usually disappears by the time she's 11 or so. Until then, there's little more that can be done, although some children may benefit from learning methods to cope with the pain.

And when it comes to any kind of stomach discomfort, never imply to your child that the ache is "all in her head." Such remarks will only create anxiety about whatever it is that's troubling her tummy.