The most typical belly pain that children experience is a vague waxing and waning discomfort in the middle of the abdomen. In general, it’s caused by stomach bugs, indigestion, or constipation. Serious belly pain, the most feared being appendicitis, is rare and intense. Certain signs will help you distinguish mild pain from other twinges.
If the pain increases rapidly, with no period of relief
If Jimmy is unable to sit, stand, or walk
If he is unable to participate in any other activity and focuses exclusively on the pain
If he can’t sleep because of the intensity of the pain
If the pain is in a specific spot rather than a vague discomfort (the right-hand side of the groin would indicate appendicitis)
If there is high fever and vomiting
If he suffered a recent blow to the belly, which could have caused an internal injury
If your child exhibits any of the above, a doctor should evaluate him immediately.
If the pain alternates with periods of relief
If Jimmy can handle other activities, such as watching TV
If he can sleep through the pain
If the pain is vaguely localized, or up near the navel
If he is able to jump without extreme discomfort
If the pain improves with a belly massage
If he has a good appetite
For mild belly pain, you can give Jimmy a regular painkiller, such as acetaminophen, but don’t give it too often; if you mask the symptoms, you may not get an accurate sense of the severity and duration of the pain. Other over-the-counter medications such as antacids have no real benefits in most cases of belly pain, since kids are rarely subject to hyperacidity.
“Belly Pains in the Head”
Belly pains in kids often originate in their heads, and for some reason are more common in school-age girls. You can recognize these mental belly pains if the child vaguely points to her navel but is otherwise in perfect health and shows no other signs of ill health (such as vomiting or diarrhea). Invariably, if you give the allegedly sore tummy a little rubbing and cuddling in response, the next time your girl is looking for a little attention she’ll tell you her belly suddenly hurts again. As soon as you decrease the therapeutic pampering, these aches will magically disappear.