All kids get a belly ache now and then, but in some kids, it could signal a more serious problem.
Dr. Jose Cocjin is a pediatric gastroenterologist from KU Medical Center. Once a month, he travels to the Cotton-O'Neil Digestive Health Center in Topeka to see patients. He says the two most common GI problems in kids are reflux and constipation.
Dr. Cocjin says occasional reflux is common in kids, but if it's happening several times a week, it deserves a closer look. He says parents should note whether the child is waking up at night with pain, whether they are having pain post-mealtime, and whether vomiting is associated with the problem.
Reflux is even more common in infants. Dr. Cocjin says most outgrow the spitups by age three, but if they don't, and if other things are going on, it may not be normal. Dr. Cocjin says to check if they're gaining weight, vomiting blood or refusing to eat. Those signs may need further investigating.
Dr. Cocjin says the obesity epidemic is causing more kids to have reflux problems. The longer reflux is left untreated, the more likely it is to lead to scarring and narrowing of the esophagus. To avoid problems, Dr. Cocjin says don't let kids eat before bedtime, try small feedings instead of large meals and avoid fatty foods.
Dr. Cocjin says constipation is also a common childhood problem. He says concerned parents should talk to their pediatrician. Often times, a dose of prescription medicine can help. If the child still has problems with bloating, vomiting or not gaining weight, a specialist may need to do futher testing.
Treatment for GI problems in children can include prescription medication, either short term or long term. Dr. Cocjin says over-the-counter medications usually aren't the best option for chronic conditions.