Stomach pain and nausea are common complaints in children but the symptoms can signify many different problems from mild to serious, so it’s important that you know the difference.
Constipation is a very common complaint and can be easily identified. If your child is finding it hard to poo, it’s likely that they’re suffering from constipation. It’s rarely caused by a medical condition and is usually the result of dehydration or stress. In some cases it can be the result of an anal fissure, which is where there is a small tear near the opening causing pain during bowel movements. The child can also be constipated due to anxiety or toilet phobia, or if they feel stressed or pressured during toilet training.
Constipation can be a very frustrating condition and can also cause slight nausea, loss of appetite, as well as very smelly wind. It usually only lasts a few days providing it’s treated properly. Do this by changing your child’s diet to high fibre foods, like wholemeal bread, give them plenty of fruit and vegetables and make sure they drink lots and lots of fluids too, and in severe cases speak to your doctor or the NHS direct.
If you child’s poo is loose and runny with a very bad odour and they’re going to the toilet frequently they’re likely to be suffering from diarrhoea. Diarrhoea also can be accompanied with vomiting. Diarrhoea and vomiting are often the result of an infection in the stomach or bowel so let’s have a look at some of the most common conditions.
Rotavirus is a nasty virus which infects the stomach and the intestines. The symptoms start with a sudden onset of diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pains and sometimes a high fever. They can last between 3-8 days and it is a highly contagious infection which spreads through diarrhoea. To prevent others in the household from catching this, make sure the infected child washes their hands regularly and you disinfect the toilet after each use. Even though your child feels sick they must drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration.
Another infection of the intestines is Giardiasis, which is a parasitic infection which gets into the intestines and passes out in the poo. The symptoms include very explosive watery diarrhea that can be particularly foul smelling, also indigestion, nausea and excessive flatulence. It’s a particularly unpleasant infection and although some may recover on their own, others may need antibiotics in severe cases. The Giardiasis parasite is spread through poor hygiene, swallowing sewage contaminated water from lakes and streams or simply touching objects which have previously been touched by an infected person.
Crohn’s disease is a very severe and chronic gastrointestinal condition. It isn’t contagious and is usually inherited genetically. It can cause abdominal pain along with diarrhoea and loss of appetite, it can also cause ulcers in the gut which can bleed showing as blood in the feces, and too much blood loss can lead to anaemia. Unfortunately, there is no cure and this problem has to be managed throughout life. There is medication available which can reduce the inflammation and a change in diet can also help with the symptoms. If you suspect this for any reason then go to the doctors and get it checked.
Coeliac disease is another chronic condition but has less severe symptoms. This condition causes the body to have a bad reaction to any foods containing gluten which is found in wheat used in making bread, pasta, pastries and cakes. If a person with coeliac eats food containing gluten their body can react with diarrhoea and vomiting. If the condition isn’t recognised early on it can lead to stunted growth, failure to gain weight as well as anaemia. There’s no cure but symptoms can be managed through the complete exclusion of gluten from your child’s diet and this is much easier nowadays as most supermarkets have a wide range of gluten free products.
Appendicitis is a serious condition and can be fatal if it’s not found in the early stages. The appendix is found in the small area to the right side of the colon. Its function’s not fully understood but we can live without it. Appendicitis is caused by an inflamed and infected appendix. Symptoms usually start with pain in the lower right hand side of your tummy and this can grow steadily worse over several hours and it can the shift over into the centre of your tummy. Nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhoea can also accompany the pain.
The only way to treat it is with surgery to remove the appendix before it bursts inside the body. If this happens it can be fatal so you must trust your gut instinct and get your child to A&E quickly.
The fact is that your child is likely to suffer from stomach complaints many times throughout their childhood and most of these problems will sort themselves out but always contact your doctor for advice if you’re in any way worried.
Stomach complaints and nausea, both mild and serious, are Dr Christian’s big topics in this video. Discussing the causes of constipation, diarrhoea and vomiting, such as infections of the stomach and bowels, like the rotavirus, to additional symptoms such as abdominal pain and a fever, to ways to prevent catching it, such as washing your hands regularly, to treatment such as rehydration, all info is provided. Furthermore, Dr Christian discusses different types of medical conditions and infections which can cause stomach bugs, and are often more serious, such as giardiasis, Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease and appendicitis. If you’re worried your child may have one of these conditions, please consult a GP.
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