Tummy troubles


Settling upset stomachs

The cause of stomach aches and pains can be difficult to decipher—especially in toddlers. Here are some culprits behind most troubled tummies, and what you can do to soothe them.

Unlike adults, if children are offered healthy choices, they tend not to overeat. But everybody slips up once in a while. A few hours' rest should settle your little gobbler's tummy. Eating slowly in a relaxed atmosphere and avoiding carbonated beverages are a good start towards prevention—as is not forcing your child to eat that last forkful of food if he's not hungry. Rich, sweet foods, such as full-fat ice cream, take longer to digest than others and should be offered only in small amounts to avoid stomach upset.

Constipation is very common among toddlers, and can cause a great deal of discomfort. Typically, a toddler will have a history of infrequent small hard stool which may be painful to pass, and there may even be some blood on the toilet paper after wiping. Dietary changes, especially increasing fibre and fluid, often help. If constipation persists despite making dietary changes, consult your doctor or pharmacist for advice on further treatment options. If your child is in severe pain, is vomiting repeatedly, or has a swollen stomach, seek medical attention immediately.

Food intolerances or allergies
If your child has recurrent tummy aches along with bloating and gas, he may be having problems digesting certain foods. By keeping a food diary and noting these reactions, you may be able to determine the cause. Be sure to consult your child’s doctor before removing any foods from the child’s diet to ensure nutritional needs are met.

Heartburn or indigestion tends to occur after a meal, resulting in an acidic taste in the mouth, burning in the upper chest, frequent burping, bad breath and/or nighttime coughing. This is from reflux—the acidic stomach contents backing up in what's meant to be a one-way system. While this is a common occurrence in babies (hence spit up), it's much less common in two-year-olds. In children this age, doctors might recommend an antacid medication. For kids who are prone to reflux, not lying down after eating, as well as avoiding heavy meals and acidic foods, such as peppermint, tomatoes and citrus, can help.

Take note
Sometimes something more serious can be mistaken for a tummy ache. With older children, you can ask if they are experiencing any pain or a burning sensation when they urinate, which is usually a sure sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI). In younger kids, it's a tougher call, but you should get to the doctor if you suspect a UTI. Left untreated, UTIs can move up into the kidneys and cause serious problems. Because girls have a shorter urethra (the tube that empties urine from the body) than boys, they're more susceptible to UTIs. To help keep bacteria at bay, girls should avoid bubble baths (which can irritate the urethra) and wipe from front to back after bowel movements.