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Do Kids Really Just 'Get' Persistent Tummy Pain?

There’s always a feeling of helplessness when our little ones are unwell; particularly if the cause isn’t clear. But what if this isn’t solved even after trips to the doctor?

One mom got in touch recently about her daughter’s persistent abdominal pain; and as usual, our wonderful community of moms have been offering some handy advice:

"Hi Moms. I have a little girl almost 9 years old. The last 6 weeks she has been complaining of stomach ache in and around the belly button area. She has been admitted once to hospital but discharged the following day as she was well enough to go home. She would have suffered with a lot of UTI infections, but is being treated for those.

She's a former shadow of herself. Some weight loss but the hospital told me nothing to be worried about. It has progressively gotten worse the last 2 weeks ... on two occasions this week I've had to bring her to A&E, screaming in agony. It seems to settle after few hours, but eventually comes back.

She seems to be on constant pain relief; but doctors have told me that 'sometimes kids get abdominal pain; there are no causes for it;' and 'get her to learn some coping mechanisms, as she has to learn to live with it!' Anyone in that position before? I'd appreciate any feedback please. Thanks in advance, from an anxious mom."

Food Intolerance?

Thelma: I went through something similar with my daughter: Despite bloods coming back clear for coeliac disease, I removed gluten from her diet, and the results were instant: She is a different child now! Best of luck with your daughter; I hope a solution can be reached very soon. Trust your own gut, and don’t allow any doctor to fob you off with that nonsense.

Linda: I would suggest keeping a good diet: I know it’s time consuming, but it may reveal something; and if it doesn't then you know it is not something you are eating. Also, I would suggest taking note of how she is pooing, as this might reveal something: Different poos suggest different issues.

Sheila: We had issues with my son getting the worst pains in his tummy. It went on for weeks where it would wake him up at night and he'd give hours crying. … I ended up removing all dairy from his diet for a few weeks, and gradually adding it back in. We have found his trigger is cheese. So any time his stomach acts up now, we just cut out cheese for a couple of weeks then gradually add it back in. He would also have been around the same age as your daughter when it all started.

Kidney/Urinary Problem?

Rachel: Consistent UTIs can cause serious kidney damage. Ask your GP to refer her to a specialist for a scan. I would not let it continue unchecked. Your gut is telling you something isn't right, so go with your instinct.

Jean: My now 10 years was the same: 4 years suffering and constant UTI. On antibiotics it would clear, and 2 weeks later would be back again … Eventually the doctor sent her to a specialist in Dublin, and he brought her in and had a look. Her bladder was severely infected with acute cystitis; she went on a 4 month course of antibiotics (which were horrible,) but after 2 weeks my little girl came back, and is now clear.

Sheila: With regard to the constant UTIs; water is your best friend. Make sure she is drinking loads of water. Try to avoid antibiotics, as she might eventually get an ESBL infection, which is antibiotic resistant.

Bowel Issues

Debbie: My daughter had the same area of pain for weeks before anyone listened: Turns out she had severe constipation. The only thing that fixed the problem was Movicol.

Samantha: She could have irritable bowel, or Crohns: Crohns can cause an awful lot of pain too (living with partner who has it,) and it can also go undiagnosed for years.

Philippa: I suffer from irritable bowel syndrome: It flared up around 16. I didn't know what was wrong for years, and thought it was in my head by the end of it. Now I know my symptoms: it starts with a dull pain around my belly button, then turns into strong pain a little lower down. I would have to lie down with the pain, and open trousers or any restrictive clothing. It can last for hours, but I've learned to feel it coming on and have a cup of peppermint tea or a peppermint oil capsule. This usually eases the pain in 30 mins then it’s gone, and certain foods trigger it.

Nicola: My daughter had a couple bouts of this they suspected kidney infections: It wasn't. Also appendix: It wasn't. Said eventually it was Mesenteric Adeniditis. Very painful; and seems to come on when she is coming down with a bug. She also suffers from constipation caused by impaction: A lot can effect the tummy, and sometimes it takes ages to reach a diagnosis; but she shouldn't have to just learn to suffer with it or live on paracetamol.

Or…

Niamh:  Could it be psychosomatic?! Is she an anxious child? Or is she worried about something?! Go with your gut though: You know your own child. Also look at digestive issues such as coeliac disease, and food intolerances.

Samantha: My daughter was the same; and was referred to paediatricians, but they couldn't find a cause. When she got a bout of tonsillitis, I brought her to [a new GP] and told him about the pain: He examined her and found her glands were swollen around belly button; and said that it was related to her tonsils, as the same gland extends into belly area. Once she had her tonsils removed, we never had pain around belly button again.

Renee: I'd never heard of Abdominal Migraines till my son was 5. We were in A&E from the bouts of pain. They came in waves (which reminded me of gallstones), but he said the pain was behind his belly button. The ER doc asked if anyone in the family suffered from migraines, and I told him I did. He's 7.5 now and gets them occasionally: If I give him meds quickly, it usually knocks them out before getting TOO bad.

But above all ... Be strong!

Maggie: I wouldn't let them fob you off and would seek a second/third opinion. Even if it is something 'simple' like IBS, there are ways to help her!

Kate: I'd insist on your GP referring your daughter to a Paediatric gastrointestinal specialist, to rule out anything sinister. No one should have to learn to cope with that sort of pain, least of all a child.

Siobhan: That's dreadful, demand they do an MRI to get a clear picture of inside, as ultrasound won't show bowels for example. They have to be 100% sure of what is causing such pain and you need to know. You have been more than patient with services, now get tough with them.

Have you experienced this with your children? We'd love to hear any advice or thoughts you have.


About the Author

Emily is a Writer, Editor, Blogger, and our new Digital Content Intern. She has three awesome nieces, and has accidentally worn the same outfit as them on at least one occasion. Emily likes making things, including hand-drawn cards, and a darn good chocolate cake; and she still sounds very English, despite living in Dublin for the last eight years. More insight into the workings of her brain can be found on dancingcakesandsilence.blogspot.com.

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