As mothers, we sometimes find it hard to understand just what our babies are trying to tell us when they cry.
Often we think, ‘I wish my baby could talk and just tell me what is wrong!’
Then our babies grow into toddlers and their communication and language skills develop. But it can still be puzzling to work out exactly what they are trying to tell us.
If you have a child complaining of hot tummy – what does it mean?
Why is my child complaining of stomach pain?
There are lots of different reasons for tummy pains in young children.
Sometimes the causes of belly pain can be figured out easily. Other times, it might be much harder.
Some of the more common causes are:
- Food-related problems (e.g. tummy too full, food intolerances)
- Stomach infections (e.g. gastro)
- Other infections (e.g. ear, throat, or urinary tract infection).
Sometimes children have repeated tummy troubles. Other times it could be a one-off problem without a known cause, which resolves itself within a few hours.
What does a hot tummy mean?
Your child complaining of hot tummy might not know any other way to describe the pain she’s feeling.
There are, however, certain conditions that can cause a burning sensation in the stomach.
Some of these are:
- Indigestion or reflux
These symptoms aren’t usually serious. They could be related to something your child has eaten, or a result of not going to the toilet frequently enough; they might also be caused by a virus.
A child complaining of hot tummy can be frustrating for you when you can’t understand what your child means.
Sometimes it helps to approach the problem from different angles.
One method is to use a pain rating scale, appropriate for the child’s age.
Children might use the word ‘hot’ to describe a pain because they don’t know any other words.
Role play with a toy could help your child complaining of hot tummy to narrow down what’s causing it.
What do you give a child with an upset stomach?
Some of the best ways to treat these non-serious tummy pains are:
- Make sure your child has plenty of rest
- Offer a heat or cool pack to help the pain
- Give your child a warm bath
- Make sure your child has plenty of fluids
- Don’t force your child to eat if she doesn’t feel like it.
If your child is hungry, bland foods are best.
Pediatricians recommend a temporary BRAT diet for children with a stomach condition.
BRAT is an acronym that stands for Bananas, Rice, Apples and Toast.
These foods are nutritious, but are less likely to aggravate an upset tummy.
Other causes of stomach pain in children
Sometimes, when your child is worried or anxious about something, it can cause tummy pains. It could be a child complaining of hot tummy is nervous or concerned.
If you notice your child getting regular stomach pains that don’t seem to be health-related, it could be due to a ‘nervous tummy’.
You might notice your child has pains in the stomach:
- Before going to childcare, kinder or school
- At bedtime
- Before a social event (like a birthday party).
These symptoms aren’t harmful but they still feel very real to your child.
Avoiding situations that cause children to worry only reinforces their anxiety.
You can help your child by validating her feelings and reassuring her it’s normal for her tummy to feel funny when she is worried or anxious.
In very young children, the idea of being away from their parent or caregiver – even for a very short amount of time – can cause separation anxiety.
You can read more about separation anxiety and how to help your child in Separation Anxiety In Babies – 4 Helpful Tips.
Why is my toddler’s belly so bloated?
It’s common for parents of toddlers to wonder whether they should be worried if their little one has a bit of a pot belly.
In most cases, this is normal and usually disappears around the time children reach school age, and their bodies become more proportionate.
If your child is displaying any other symptoms along with a bloated tummy, you should see your healthcare provider for professional advice.
Sometimes a bloated belly can be related to conditions such as:
- Backed up bowel (not toileting frequently enough)
- Lactose intolerance (not common under 5 years of age)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Celiac disease.
If you suspect your child complaining of hot tummy and bloating might be related to one of these conditions, check in with your doctor or paediatrician.
When should I be concerned about my child’s stomach pain?
If your child is complaining of stomach pains often, its best to seek medical advice from your healthcare provider.
It might be necessary to run some simple tests, to get to the bottom of the cause of the pain.
They might include:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Stool samples
- Referral to a specialist doctor.
Sometimes, even after several tests, no cause for the stomach pain will be found.
To rule out anything serious, it’s still important to investigate what could be causing the pain.
When can stomach pain be serious?
You should seek urgent medical care if your child shows any of the following symptoms:
- Refusing to eat or drink
- Vomiting or diarrhea that lasts for more than 24 hours
- Blood in vomit or poo
- Fever as well as stomach pain
- Skin rash as well as stomach pain
- Fewer than 5 wet nappies per day, in babies
- Any other problem you are concerned about.
Remember, it’s ok to take your child to your hospital’s emergency department, even if you’re not sure whether it is an emergency.
If you are unable to get to an emergency department or you’re worried about how long it might take to get there, you should call for an ambulance.
The biggest concern for stomach pain that starts suddenly is it could be appendicitis. This can progress to a burst appendix within 72 hours if not treated.
Stomach pain and appendicitis
The appendix is an organ in the lower right-hand side of the abdomen. If it becomes inflamed, it can cause sharp, sudden pain that starts around the belly button and moves to the right side of the stomach. The signs of appendicitis can be harder to pick up in young children. This may be the cause of your child complaining of hot tummy.
Appendicitis is considered a medical emergency, as untreated it can lead to a ruptured appendix. This can lead to an infection spreading into your child’s abdominal cavity.
The treatment for appendicitis is usually surgical removal of the appendix followed by a course of antibiotics. If appendicitis is left untreated, the appendix can rupture and cause sepsis (a potentially life-threatening infection of the body).
Tops tips to remember for tummy pain
Tummy pains are common in children and usually aren’t serious. If you have a child complaining of hot tummy, assume it means stomach pain.
Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and fluids. In most cases, a sore tummy will resolve itself.
Seek medical help if your child has tummy ache with any accompanying symptoms, or if you’re at all concerned.
It’s common for kids to get tummy aches when they are worried. You can discuss this with your doctor, who can refer you to a child specialist if necessary.