I’m sure you have heard this one before, and if you haven’t yet, you will. There comes a point, usually during the toddler years, that a child becomes more aware of bodily pain. The problem is that, since they are too young to identify what could have caused or is causing the pain, they tend to freak out and just cry.
Here is a little tip for when your child comes crying that their tummy is hurting – ask them where the pain is. They can’t tell the difference between stomach pain and lower abdominal pain, and the different causes for each one. Even if your child can’t talk yet, they can point to where it hurts.
If they point to their stomach, it could be hunger, nausea, or pain from overeating. You should be able to figure it out depending on when they last ate, what they had, and how they have been acting since then. Often a child who is about to throw up will whine and fuss, want to lie down, or be with you. My son is scared of throwing up, and will cry about it more once it happens than before. Lots of comfort and emphasizing that it is all over is needed to calm him down.
If they point to the lower abdomen, the most likely cause is a need empty the bowel. This one happens to Logan almost daily. He will fuss and cry about how much his tummy hurts, then within minutes, he will be on the toilet and then everything is ok. Other causes could be gas, or, more rarely. appendicitis. This last one can be serious and will require medical attention. (Read this link if you want to know the symptoms.)
With Logan, each time he says his tummy hurts, I talk to him and find out where the pain is, and I explain to him what it might mean. Of course, I don’t say everything I listed above, only what applies to him at the moment. This helps him to learn the difference in hunger pangs and needing to use the toilet, or feeling sick in his stomach.
What do you do when your child says his tummy hurts? How do you handle it?