Should you worry about your child’s stomach pain?
How often does your child tell you their stomach hurts? A recent Mott poll suggests 17 percent of participating parents say their child complains of stomach pain at least once a month.
It can be hard to know how to handle a child’s stomachache. Only about one in three parents from the poll report feeling confident they can identify whether their child’s stomachache is a sign of something serious. A few other highlights from the report:
- About 70 percent of parents ask their child to describe the stomach pain to them, and 41 percent have their child lay down to see if this helps relieve the discomfort.
- Just over one quarter of parents believe their child’s stomach pain is related to anxiety or worry about things like school, and only 16 percent of those parents allow their child to miss school or the activity the child may be worrying about.
- More than 70 percent of parents discuss the potential cause of anxiety with their child, and more than half have their child try breathing or relaxation exercises.
Dr. Hollis Redmon, a pediatrician with Advocate Medical Group in Naperville, Ill., says complaints of stomach pain are fairly common in both her younger patients and the teenage population.
“I typically try to ask a lot of open-ended questions about the quality and timing of the pain, how long it lasts or other symptoms the child might be feeling,” she explains. “There are so many reasons to have abdominal pain, so it isn’t always a simple diagnosis. The pain could be caused by something they ate, viral or bacterial infections, related to stool habits or even caused by an emotional issue like anxiety or stress. There isn’t really a threshold for what level of pain is acceptable because it’s often the quality of the pain or how much it’s affecting your child’s life that is important to consider.”
Dr. Redmon says a majority of stomach pain is benign, but if you are concerned about your child, call their pediatrician.
Overall, she is glad that parents are reporting that they are comfortable talking to their child about mental health issues like anxiety. “It’s so important to normalize these conversations, especially since mental health directly affects physical health,” says Dr. Redmon.
About the Author
Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.