Why Is My Child's Stomach Big?

A bloated or distended stomach is usually an uncomfortable condition, regardless of the cause. It can be worrisome to parents if their child's stomach appears distended without an obvious reason, and young children may find it difficult to articulate what they are feeling.

A toddler with a bloated stomach may not be able to express what she is feeling. (Image: O_Lypa/iStock/GettyImages)

While a toddler with a bloated stomach itself does not indicate a serious condition, parents should take note of any other symptoms that accompany their child's distended belly. This can help determine whether or not to consult a doctor.


If your child's stomach is big, make a checklist of what could be causing the issue. Nailing it down to a specific cause by consulting a doctor will help you find a treatment that much quicker.

Is Your Child Constipated?

Constipation is an uncomfortable but usually not serious condition that everyone faces from time to time. If she is constipated, your toddler's tummy may appear bloated and be hard to the touch. Mayo Clinic says the best way to determine whether your child is constipated is to take note of the frequency and consistency of her bowel movements.

If her bowel movements are less frequent than usual and appear particularly hard, she may be constipated. Sometimes simple diet changes can ease constipation, but consult your child's doctor if you are concerned.

Could It Be Appendicitis?

Appendicitis can be one of the causes of big stomachs in children, particularly in younger children. Along with a bloated stomach, a child suffering from appendicitis may also have a fever, nausea and pain that centers around the lower-right side of the abdomen.

If you suspect your child has appendicitis, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. If appendicitis goes untreated, the appendix can burst, causing a potentially life-threatening infection. Appendicitis is treated with antibiotics or the surgical removal of the appendix according to KidsHealth From Nemours.

Or Maybe Giardia?

Giardia is caused by an intestinal parasite and is often spread from child to child in daycare settings. This parasite can cause your child to have a bloated stomach, diarrhea, stomach pain and nausea according to KidsHealth.

While giardia can be treated with medication, it is important to teach your child proper hygiene to lessen his chances of becoming infected. Also, observe your daycare's hygiene policies to be sure they are doing everything possible to prevent the spread of parasites and infections.

Celiac Control Issues

A person with celiac disease has a system that is unable to process gluten, which is found in many foods. Consumption of these foods, such as bread or pasta, can cause the sufferer to become bloated, have diarrhea, and develop a rash, among other things according to Mayo Clinic.

While there is no cure for celiac disease, it can be controlled by adjusting your child's diet to avoid foods that contain gluten. This diet change is very important, as untreated celiac disease can lead to stunted growth in children.

Should You Call the Doctor?

It is important to take into account any symptoms your child is displaying in conjunction with a bloated stomach when deciding whether to call the doctor. If your toddler has a fever and distended belly, abdominal pain or rash, you should consult your pediatrician. Also, prolonged diarrhea can lead to dehydration, so it is important to monitor your child's fluid intake if she is experiencing loose bowel movements and contact her doctor if the diarrhea is persistent.

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