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When Your Child Has Stomach Problems

Watching your child have stomach problems can be really hard. It can make you feel hopeless and fear that something might be seriously wrong. The good news is most stomach problems are not emergencies! And you can help put your mind at ease by learning as much as possible.

The Facts

  • It is normal for children to have stomach problems during their early years.
  • Many common childhood illnesses can cause stomach problems.
  • Stomach problems include spitting up, throwing up (vomiting) and diarrhea.
  • Spitting up and throwing up (vomiting) are not the same things:
    • Spitting up is when a baby (1 year old or younger) brings up 1 or 2 mouthfuls of milk or liquid from the stomach. It usually happens right after feeding. Many babies spit up after feeding. Spitting up can happen with a burp.
    • Vomiting is a forceful throwing up of stomach contents through the mouth.
  • Diarrhea is many watery or very soft bowel movements. Diarrhea is usually caused by a virus. It usually gets better within 3 to 6 days. Sometimes, diarrhea may last longer than 3 to 6 days. As long as the child seems well and is drinking lots of fluids and eating food, diarrhea is nothing to worry about.

What Should I Do At Home for Stomach Problems?

In babies (1 year old or younger):

  • For the first 24-hours keep your baby off solid foods.
  • If you are breastfeeding, you should keep doing this.

In all children:

  • Encourage them to drink or suck clear fluids instead of eating. This includes things like water, popsicles or an electrolyte solution. An electrolyte solution gives your body the fluids and minerals it lost from diarrhea or vomiting. Passport Health Plan may cover the solution if your PCP gives you a prescription. You can ask your PCP for a prescription.
  • When vomiting has stopped, encourage them to eat small amounts of food.

Remember - liquids keep your child from losing water (dehydration). They are also less likely to cause more vomiting.

When Are Stomach Problems An Emergency?

Most stomach problems are nothing to worry about. But, there are a few times when the problem is an emergency. You should call your child’s PCP if he or she has the following:

  • Blood or green-colored (bile) material in the vomit or stool.
  • Really bad stomach pain.
  • Repeated vomiting.
  • Vomiting for more than 24 hours.
  • Swollen stomach.
  • High fever.
  • Lack of energy or cries a lot.
  • Seizures.
  • Dehydration (dry sticky mouth, no tears when crying, sunken in or indented “soft spot” and decreased urination).
  • Avoids or refuses to drink fluids.

Be Prepared - Keep the Following Information Handy

When you need medical advice, call your child’s primary care practitioner (PCP) first. The PCP can tell you how to care for your child’s stomach problems.

You may also call the Nurse Advice Line, 24 hours a day, at 1-800-606-9880. If you are a person with a hearing impairment, you may call the TDD/TTY number, 1-800-648-6056.