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child laying on couch with upset stomach
January 4, 2022

What to Do if your Child has a Tummy Ache

ThedaCare Pediatrician Explains Potential Remedies and How to Know When It Is Serious

Most parents know, or have experienced first-hand, the bouts of illnesses, viruses, and bugs that pass around when children go back to school or daycare. One common illness experienced in children nearly every year is viral gastroenteritis, otherwise known as the stomach flu. 

Dr. Sneha Subbarayan, a Pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Neenah said she sees children experience a variety of different symptoms. Many of them are normal and should not cause any alarm. She also noted that some specific symptoms should get a little more attention. 

“It’s really important when children are showing symptoms of the stomach flu that parents are watching for dehydration,” said Dr. Subbarayan. “Some of the normal symptoms to expect with stomach flu are cramping, nausea or vomiting, watery diarrhea and sometimes fever. Keeping your child hydrated and getting plenty of rest will help them through it,” 

Children can easily become dehydrated after just a few hours of vomiting and diarrhea said Dr. Subbarayan. One way to know if your child is dehydrated is by monitoring how much they’re using the bathroom or if your child has fewer wet diapers. 

“The best way to improve hydration without upsetting the stomach is by taking a sip or two of water or something like Pedialyte every five to 10 minutes,” explained Dr. Subbarayan. “This can help get electrolytes back into the body. We ask that caregivers monitor excess sugar in drinks because that can actually worsen diarrhea symptoms in some cases.” 

If your child’s abdominal pain lasts for more than a few days, be sure to make an appointment with your child’s provider.  

Dr. Sneha Subbarayan

Other Stomach Problems 

Another common reason for tummy trouble is indigestion. One way to help your child find comfort if they are dealing with indigestion is to prepare smaller meals. Indigestion will often go away on its own and is not serious noted Dr. Subbarayan.  

Another possibility – constipation. Children experiencing constipation may complain of stomach pain, bloating, or discomfort. Dr. Subbarayan said parents should encourage children to drink plenty of water. It’s important to talk with your primary care provider if your child doesn’t want to eat, is losing weight, has bloody stools, or is having repeated symptoms of constipation.  

Parents should seek urgent medical attention if children have any abdominal pain along with the following symptoms: 

  • Pain so severe they cannot move without causing more pain
  • Difficulty sitting or finding a comfortable position
  • Fever
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Skin that appears yellow
  • Sever tenderness
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Bloody stools

Dr. Subbarayan explained that more serious conditions could be linked to appendicitis or intestinal obstruction. Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix and can be very painful. 

“This can cause sudden pain around the navel and then moves to the lower right abdomen,” she said. “The pain worsens if children cough, walk or make quick movements.”  

Appendicitis is an emergency and children should get immediate medical attention. The pain from appendicitis typically increases and becomes severe.  

Intestinal obstruction is when there is a blockage that prevents food or liquid from passing through children’s small intestine or colon.  

“This can be caused by scar tissue or if they swallow something,” said Dr. Subbarayan. 

“Symptoms for intestinal obstruction includes severe abdominal pain around the navel.”  

Intestinal obstruction is another example of an emergency, and there should be immediate medical attention. 

“Parents never like to see their children feeling back because of a tummy ache,” said Dr. Subbarayan. “In most cases, we ask families monitor symptoms, and do what they can to make little ones comfortable until the tummy troubles pass. Keeping them hydrated, and some extra hugs can be great remedies.”  

About ThedaCare 

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care 

Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care. 

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.