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Child in mom's lap looking sick

Tummy Troubles

By Dr. Dorothy Ballard, Tidewater Children's Associates

Almost all children experience tummy troubles from time to time. The good news is that most can be successfully treated at home. Here are tips on how to care for some of the most common causes.

Stomach bug

Vomiting, diarrhea and fever often signal a stomach bug, a short bout of illness usually caused by a virus.

Have your child rest. Give liquids in small, frequent amounts as tolerated and start back on solid food slowly, only once the child is keeping liquids down. Offer the BRAT diet – bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Avoid fruit juices and concentrated sweets such as fruit cups and pouches, as these may make the diarrhea worse while the virus is running its course. Call your pediatrician if vomiting lasts more than 24 hours or if your child shows signs of dehydration (sunken eyes, dry or sticky mouth, decreased urination, increased sleepiness and fussiness).

Food poisoning

Food poisoning can cause many of the same symptoms as a stomach bug. If more than one person in your family is having belly pain, diarrhea or vomiting after eating the same food, it’s likely food poisoning.

Treat the same as a stomach bug, and watch for signs of dehydration.


Constipation is very common in children and can be caused by many things. Learn about the most common causes of constipation here.

Limit junk foods, give plenty of fluids and encourage lots of fiber-filled whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Ensure that your child is taking dedicated time each day to sit on the toilet, especially after meals. Never give a child laxatives without talking to your pediatrician first.

Lactose intolerance or milk allergy

Your child may have an upset stomach, bloating, gas, diarrhea or vomiting after eating or drinking milk products if they have lactose intolerance or a milk allergy.

Read food labels and pay attention to your child’s symptoms to determine which products they can handle. Talk with your pediatrician about diet changes that may help.

Acid Reflux

Acid Reflux, or GERD, is another common cause of tummy aches in kids. Often, they point to the middle or upper part of their stomach, or even their chest, as the location of intermittent discomfort. Eating or drinking may temporarily improve symptoms, but the discomfort can be made worse with carbonated drinks, fatty or fried foods, spicy foods, chocolate, caffeine, mint, citrus and other acidic foods.

If avoiding the above types of food and drinks improves the symptoms, you might have your answer. Talk with your pediatrician about whether other tests or medications should be considered.


If your child’s stomach hurts after a meal, they may have simply eaten too much in too little time.

Encourage your child to eat only when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full – this will help form healthy eating habits. Avoid letting kids eat in front of the TV and don’t offer rewards, like dessert, for “cleaning their plate.”

Call your pediatrician immediately if your child:

  • develops a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher with a sore throat or headache.
  • is less than 6 months old and develops persistent diarrhea and/or vomiting.
  • is less than 12 months old and shows signs of stomach pain, such as prolonged crying and pulling their legs toward their belly.
  • has stomach pain for more than three hours, especially if the pain is located in the lower right side of their belly, which could be a sign of appendicitis.
  • still has stomach pain more than three hours after vomiting.
  • vomits greenish-yellow stomach contents or has blood in their vomit or stool.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.