Digestive Problems in Children

By Erica Loop
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Your baby is fussy, your toddler’s got gas or your older child is holding her belly. Digestive problems are a pain for kids and parents, alike. From minor issues to more major maladies, understanding digestive problems can help you help your child to get healthy and overcome discomfort.

Colic and Babies

Your baby is crying non-stop, pulling up his legs and passing gas. Even though he can’t tell you about his tummy troubles, it could be colic. Newborns between 10 days and 3 months of age may develop this digestive problem, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ HealthyChildren.org website. There’s no single cause or treatment for colic, making it a challenge for parents to handle. You can try walking or rocking your baby, burping him or soothing him with a back rub. Consult a pediatrician for guidance and to rule out other digestive problems.

Viral and Bacterial Infections

Even though colic is a common culprit when it comes to infant digestive issues, it’s not the only problem. Viral and bacterial infections may cause stomachache, loose stools, diarrhea or vomiting. These types of infections may also strike your toddler or older child. While a viral infection typically goes away on its own within a week, you should always consult a medical professional as complications can develop. Your child could become dehydrated or have a more serious bacterial infection which requires antibiotics. Keep your child hydrated while she is sick. Start with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water every five to 15 minutes, suggests Doernbecher Children's Hospital.

Allergies and Intolerances

Food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances are behind many different types of stomach issues. There are many different types of food-induced stomach problems that affect kids of all ages. A true allergy is a serious medical condition that goes beyond digestive distress and results in life-threatening symptoms such as anaphylactic shock.

Cow’s milk is a common cause of allergies or sensitivities in infants, according to lactation consultant Jan Barger on the website BabyCenter. Crying, fussiness and passing gas after feeding are signs to look for if you suspect that your baby’s formula is causing the problem. Switching to soy is an option for some infants. But, half of all babies with a cow’s milk sensitivity won’t tolerate soy either. Toddlers and older children may also have similar dairy sensitivities, intolerances and allergies.

Another sensitivity-related digestive issue is celiac disease. Children of any age can have this condition caused by a gluten intolerance. Signs include irritability, poor growth, chronic diarrhea, constipation, pale stools or vomiting, according to HealthyChildren.org. Only a doctor can diagnose celiac disease. While there’s no cure, avoiding gluten-based products such as cereal and bread cuts the risk of having symptoms.

Kids' Constipation

Constipation is a common digestive problem that may affect your child at any time. Your child is most likely to get constipated when he transitions to solid foods, begins toilet training or is under stress, notes the Children’s Hospital Colorado. Other causes of constipation include dehydration, a low-fiber diet, overdoing dairy consumption and not enough physical activity.

To get things moving, serve up more fiber, have him drink more liquids and get him into the habit of using the bathroom at the same time each day. If he still hasn’t had a bowel movement, or his holding in his stool, get medical help from a professional.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.