The holiday tummy trouble trap

If you think holiday overeating is just for adults, think again. Children, too, can fall into the trap of eating too much sweet, rich food that results in some major tummy troubles. And these troubles can lead to cramping, bloating, constipation and even reflux.

“Kids are notorious for having trouble with their regular diets,” said Jameel Clark, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Associates – Dixie. “Add in a lot of cheese, cookies and other treats that you see this time of year, and you have a recipe for stomachaches.”

Constipation is a common issue for children. In fact, it is the third most common diagnosis for children at Norton Children’s Hospital.

If your child hasn’t had a bowel movement in two or more days, constipation may be the cause. To offset the holiday treats that may be binding them up, make sure your child is eating plenty of fiber and drinking several cups of water a day, depending on age. Also, avoid white bread, rice, potatoes, milk, cheese and bananas.

Constipation isn’t the only cause of issues.

If your child has a lot of gas, pay attention to what he or she is eating. If there is a lot of gas after one particular food, remove that from the offerings.

“We also see a lot of children who have stomach pain caused by reflux,” Dr. Clark said. “It often happens this time of year because children may be overeating or eating spicier than normal foods.”

Reflux occurs when the contents of the stomach move back up the esophagus instead of staying in the stomach. This can cause pain, burping and heartburn.

The answer? Remove foods that seem to be causing these symptoms.

“Most of the time reflux can be managed with dietary changes,” Dr. Clark said. “However, if the pain continues, call your pediatrician.”

When should you call your pediatrician about tummy troubles?

  • The pain becomes severe or seems to be in one specific part of the abdomen.
  • Other symptoms occur, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or fever.
  • The belly feels hard or looks very swollen.
  • If you are overly concerned.

What can you do to help your child?

  • Avoid over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. These can make stomach issues worse or hide important symptoms.
  • Try some quiet time: a nap, reading or watching a movie.
  • Have your child drink more fluids, especially water. Avoid fruit juice, which can make a stomachache worse.
  • Avoid solid foods for a couple of hours, especially if your child is vomiting.
  • Try small, bland snacks such as wheat crackers, dry wheat or multigrain toast, or unsweetened applesauce.
  • Have your child hug a warm blanket or heating pad (on low) to the belly for no more than 20 minutes.

Try these high-fiber recipes to help your child’s digestive system stay in tip-top shape:

To find a pediatrician near you, call (502) 629-KIDS or visit us online.

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