Recurrent tummy ache is very common in childhood, affecting 10 to 15 per cent of school-aged children. Usually, children’s tummy aches are due to an infection such as a common cold. However, here are some other reasons:
Anxiety – A complaint of tummy ache is often one way children express stress and worry, or sometimes even deep unhappiness. The clue to this is that the child may be perfectly well between sporadic stomach complaints. Look for patterns in the child’s symptoms and gently ask questions to see if there are problems at school.
Migraine – Migraine in children classically causes abdominal symptoms rather than a headache. Often migraine begins as car sickness at the age of six or seven. It leads to episodes of tummy ache, before causing more typical headaches as the child reaches puberty. This can be pretty serious so contact your doctor.
Food sensitivity - It can be difficult to track down food sensitivities. Think about whether this could be a real problem, then monitor your child's diet to look for a pattern that matches her symptoms. Try food sensitivity testing if you are unsure.
If the tummy ache persists, or if there are worrying symptoms such as an accompanying fever, take your child to see the doctor immediately.
Babies may experience tummy aches, in the form of abdominal pain with cramping, due to colic.
Please also see our page on colic for further information.
† Medical referral is advisable if symptoms worsen or persist.