Decreased Appetite & Stomach Pain in Children

I hate a vegetables! I'm not eating this!
Child crying at the table (Image: gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images)

When your child is sick, it can be difficult to watch him suffer, particularly if you cannot determine the cause of his illness. A variety of illnesses can cause decreased appetite and stomach pain, and learning more about them can help you find ways to relieve your child's symptoms and help him feel better. Call your pediatrician if his stomach pain does not go away in a few hours or he begins to run a temperature. Some causes of stomach pain require medical attention.

Causes of Decreased Appetite

Your child's appetite may decrease when she's going through a slow-growth period. This may mean that she needs less food to meet her nutritional requirements. Stomach discomfort accompanying a smaller appetite can indicate something more serious. Stomach bugs, which are caused by bacteria and viruses, can make your child feel nauseated and therefore less interested in eating. Bacteria called Helicobacter pylori can cause peptic ulcers, which can decrease the appetite, as well. A decreased appetite may also accompany urinary-tract infections and appendicitis.

Treating Decreased Appetite

If your child is eating less because his growth has slowed, no treatment is necessary, as long as she is still eating a variety of foods. Bacterial infections that inhibit appetite often need to be treated with antibiotics, while viral infections require time to pass. Antibiotics are also used to treat Helicobacter pylori ulcers and urinary-tract infections.

Causes of Stomach Pain

Viral and bacterial infections are among the most common causes of stomach pain in children. Urinary-tract and bladder infections can be very painful, as well. Other causes include gas, bloating, milk allergy, appendicitis and parasites. Stress and emotional turmoil can also give your child a stomach ache and make her less likely to eat.

Treating Stomach Pain

Antibiotics can wipe out a bacterial infection and restore a child's appetite. Antibiotics are ineffective treatments for viral infections, which must run their course. You can, however, treat the symptoms with ginger ale or soda crackers, which may help to settle your child's stomach. Constipation can be treated with plenty of water and high-fiber foods. Your child's doctor may also recommend a stool softener. More serious reasons for stomach pain, such as allergies or appendicitis, will need to be diagnosed by your child's pediatrician before treatment can begin. In cases of stress and emotional upset, talking with your child can help determine the cause and begin to relieve his discomfort.

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