As youngsters return to school, it’s common to have butterflies, or even bats in their tummies. Stress can have adverse effects on children’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and as parents we may not notice right away.
New places and changes in routines are common causes of constipation and tummy aches. Our friends at Children’s Health℠ have a few reminders as our kids trade swimsuits for backpacks and adjust to being back to school.
Use these Tips to Manage Tummy Troubles this Fall
Megha S. Mehta, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist at Children’s Health and Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern, helps us to understand children’s GI troubles, explaining ways you can help at home and when to seek help.
She says the most common causes of stomach pain in children are: indigestion, an infection or bug, constipation, stress or anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome or functional abdominal pain, or appendicitis (acute or sudden pain).
Symptoms may include cramping, diarrhea, gas, bloating, nausea or vomiting. One of the most important things to note is where your child is feeling pain and when.
Explains Dr. Mehta: “Location of the pain can help physicians the cause, as can other characteristics such as severity of pain, when it occurs, what makes it better or worse, and accompanying symptoms.” Learn more about different types of stomach pain.
- Encourage your child to lay down and rest
- Ask if they can try to poop
- Offer a glass of water
- Try distracting them by reading a book together or playing a quiet game
Many young children headed into full day school for the first time will need extra encouragement to manage their nerves and keep their GI tract on track.
Tips to Prevent Stress-Induced Tummy Troubles:
- Water is key. Encourage your child to drink 8 ounces with every meal.
- To the extent possible, avoid processed foods. They contain little to no fiber which our bodies need to properly digest foods.
- Discuss and practice new routines so children know what to expect. Teach your child to look for signals of stomach pain caused by stress and pain possibly caused by another factor.
- Encourage your child that they will have plenty of opportunities to use the bathroom at school and to be on the lookout for signals they need to go. While it’s best to go during scheduled breaks, it’s also absolutely ok to tell the teacher if you have to go during classroom time. Explain to them that holding it in all day can cause problems like constipation and it’s ok to go.
- If your child is prone to tummy troubles, talk to their teacher to make sure that bathroom time is not withheld.