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What Are the Causes of Upset Stomach in Children?

A diagram of the stomach and duodenum.
Eating a lot of pizza, which is usually high in fat, could give a child an upset stomach.
Peppermint and chamomile teas can sooth upset stomachs.
A lactose-intolerant child will experience an upset stomach after eating cheese.
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  • Written By: Sarah Sullins
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 12 July 2014
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Many common reasons for upset stomach in children are similar to those for upset stomach in adults: lactose intolerance, constipation, overeating, hunger, stress, infection or illness. A child also may suffer an upset stomach with appendicitis and colic. Girls who have reached the age of puberty and have begun menstruating may experience stomach aches related to menstrual cramps. Upset stomach in infants may occur because of a sensitivity to the formula they drink or, if they are breastfeeding, the diet of their mother.

The symptom of an upset stomach in children is very common, but treating it can be complicated. Children often find it hard to explain exactly where they are hurting and what is causing the pain. Parents may have to pay close attention to a child’s behavior and evaluate other symptoms to figure out what is causing the stomach ache. Other common symptoms that may occur with upset stomach are fever, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

Lactose intolerance is more common in adults, but it can be the cause of upset stomach in children. Lactose intolerance means a child’s body is not able to digest lactose, which is the sugar in milk. Diarrhea may also be a symptom of lactose intolerance. The problem can be alleviated by avoiding products containing milk, or by taking a lactase supplement before consuming milk-containing products.

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Eating too much can also cause upset stomach in children. Foods that are high in sugar and fat tend to exacerbate these problems because of slow digestion. It's not just junk foods, though. Any foods eaten in large quantities can produce bloating and stomach pain.

Hunger and constipation are both causes for stomach aches. Children do not always recognize that their body is telling them to eat or use the bathroom. Parents can remedy these problems by making sure their child has a snack when he needs it and makes regular trips to the bathroom. Diets with the recommended amount of fiber can also help prevent constipation in children.

Infections and illnesses are most often the causes for upset stomach in children. These often occur in the intestines as a result of the stomach flu. Heartburn can also result in a stomach ache and is usually caused by foods with too much acid in them or by a food allergy. Diarrhea, nausea, fever and vomiting often occur with these illnesses.

Some children get stomach aches because of stress. The stress can come from anywhere, including home and school. Paying attention to a child’s feelings and finding out if there is anything that can be done to help resolve a stress-triggering problem can help eliminate or cut down on such stomach aches.

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Discuss this Article

croydon
Post 3

@pastanaga - If your child has chronic diarrhea though I would make sure there wasn't some kind of allergy situation. If they are allergic to gluten or wheat, or if they are lactose intolerant then they might get an upset stomach because of that. And it's not always obvious which foods contain those products.

pastanaga
Post 2

@browncoat - I find that an upset stomach in children happens more often when they have food they just aren't used to. So if they are used to pizza, then having a lot of vegetables might do it (although that's no reason to not introduce them to vegetables!).

My sister became very sick when we were little every time we traveled, because she would find something she liked, like a new kind of nut or candy, and would just eat way too much of it.

Children just don't have the ability to restrain themselves like adults do and adults need to take that into account.

browncoat
Post 1

It's pretty easy to assume your kids are getting the right kind of food when you don't really pay attention to diet in general. Kids can live off junk food for a long time, but it doesn't do their health much good.

I believe that children shouldn't be forced into eating things that they truly don't like, but I also think that they tend to eat the things their parents eat. So if you don't want your kids to make themselves ill by eating too much pizza, you have to set the example by having meals with lots of vegetables and protein with them more often.

Nothing is more annoying than a parent who claims their child won't eat their vegetables, when they demonstrate poor eating habits to their child all day, every day.

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