By Lisa James
“My tummy hurts!” What parent hasn’t heard that cry at one time or another?
Fortunately, most tummy aches in children aren’t serious and respond well to home care. Start by asking your child what he or she ate recently—more than one youngster has learned the hard way that it isn’t a good idea to eat a lot of candy all at once. Spicy or greasy foods are other common offenders, as is drinking too much soda.
If there have been no obvious dietary no-nos, try the following simple ideas. (Don’t give pain medicine without asking your pediatrician first, and always seek professional help for severe or worsening pain, especially in the area of the appendix on the right side, a swollen or rigid belly, or a stomachache accompanied by unexplained fever, severe vomiting or diarrhea, or bleeding of any kind.)
Use a Warm Compress or Bath
Employ warm water’s power to relax and soothe; giving your child a warm bath or compress gently encourages better digestion and blood flow.† What’s more, “heat increases the blood flow to the skin surface, which can diminish the perception of pain coming from deeper in the abdomen,” says pediatrician Robyn Strosaker, MD. (A hot water bottle or heating pad may also help.) Always check the temperature first.
Give Your Child Clear Fluids and Bland Food
Sometimes upset stomachs respond to sips of clear fluids like water (you can add a little fruit juice for flavor) or broth. You can also brew simple teas from herbs such as ginger, chamomile or peppermint (peppermint candy may also work).†
If your child has an appetite, try bland foods, such as applesauce, bread or crackers (dry), gelatin, oatmeal, pasta or rice. “These foods are not only less likely to induce vomiting, but they will help the gastrointestinal tract return to normal function more quickly,” says Strosaker.†
Plain yogurt is another option. Yogurt is creamy and soothing, and it supplies probiotics, the beneficial micro-organisms that normally inhabit the intestines. That makes it especially helpful in cases of mild diarrhea, which can flush good microbes out of the digestive system.
Tummy aches can also occur if a child is constipated. To promote elimination, encourage your child to drink fluids and walk or play outside (no roughhousing!). In addition to increasing your child’s fluid intake, try giving him or her small amounts of fiber-filled fruits, such as apricots, cherries, prunes or raisins; puree them for children under age 4 to decrease the risk of choking. Lightly massaging the belly in a clockwise direction may also help.
Try massaging your child’s feet, too—but you have to find the right spot first. In the ancient art of reflexology, practitioners apply pressure to specific spots on the feet that correspond to various parts of the body. According to reflexology charts, the stomach area is linked to the center arch of the left foot. Hold your child’s left foot in your right hand; then place your left hand under the ball of the foot and use your thumb to apply a steady pressure. Walk the thumb across the foot, pressing one spot before moving forward and repeating. Then switch hands, using the thumb of your right hand to “walk” backwards until you cover the center of the arch.
Gently Probe for Emotional Concerns
Sometimes, a child’s inner turmoil manifests through outward symptoms (think of all the tummy aches that occur at the start of every school year). Ask if your child is bothered by something, and be prepared to hear that it may be an issue simmering at home—children are often sensitive to tension within a household.
Hold Your Child
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of your presence. Cuddle your child while reading a book or watching a movie: The extra time spent with you may be the best medicine of all.
†The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.
The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.