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Kids’ stomach pain is common complaint, yet many parents don’t seek medical care, poll finds

Stomach pain is one of the most common complaints among kids, but most parents have trouble pinpointing the cause and taking action to relieve it, a new poll found.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, polled 1,061 randomly selected adults with kids between the ages of three and 10 in February 2023.

One in six parents (17%) said their kids complain of stomach pain on at least a monthly basis, but only 58% of those parents brought up the issue with their pediatricians, according to a press release discussing the study’s findings.

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About a quarter of parents said they believe their child’s stomach pain is due to anxiety, a desire for attention or an attempt to avoid school.

In cases in which the parents think the belly pain is caused by anxiety, 71% of them said they have attempted to discuss the source of anxiety with their child.

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Symptoms most likely to prompt parents to call a doctor or seek emergency care included blood in the child’s stool (84%), a “sharp,” knife-like pain (64%), six or more hours of continued pain (64%), a swollen (63%) or hard (49%) belly, fever (22%) or diarrhea (8%).

Potential causes of kids’ belly pain

Belly pain is usually a warning sign, said Dr. Marc Siegel, professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor.

Dr. Shana Johnson, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician in Scottsdale, Arizona, who was also not involved in the poll, said she’s had firsthand experience with how kids’ stomach pain can stem from emotional health concerns.

“My son’s stomach pain was confirmed to be stress-induced.”

“His reflux and stomach pain are his stress ‘biomarker’ — it tells me when I am pushing him too hard to fit into the box.”

Gut-brain connection

The brain and the digestive tract, or “gut,” talk to each other through the brain-gut connection, Dr. Shana Johnson of Scottsdale, Arizona, told Fox News Digital in an interview. (iStock)

The brain and the digestive tract, or “gut,” talk to each other through the brain-gut connection, she explained. 

“This relationship connects the emotional and cognitive parts of the brain with gastrointestinal functions,” said Johnson. 

“Parents are wrong to ignore it.”

“Either way, parents are wrong to ignore it,” said Dr. Siegel. 

“You need a pediatrician you can trust, and this is one of the things they need to be informed about,” he said. 

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