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When my daughter complains that she has a stomachache, the first words out of my mouth are always, “are you going to vomit?!”
I know no one likes dealing with a kid who is vomiting, but when I see someone else getting sick, I start gagging myself.
Most of the time however, her stomach hurts because she ate a bag of chips, too many sweets or even went overboard on fruit, despite my best efforts to teach her about portion control.
Tummy aches are a surprisingly common complaint for kids. According to a May 2016 study in the journal American Family Physician, about 9 percent of kids’ doctor visits are due to stomachaches.
Most of the time, they’re mild and short-lived but if your kid has tummy aches that seem severe or persist, checking in with your pediatrician is always a good idea.
An infection, food allergies or an intolerance, constipation, fatigue and even stress can cause tummy aches.
When it’s your run of the mill tummy ache however, there are some natural remedies that can help ease your kid’s discomfort.
1. Chamomile tea
My go-to remedy when my kids have tummy aches is a cup of decaffeinated chamomile tea, which is a well-known remedy for upset stomach.
Chamomile leaves are high in flavonoids, a type of plant pigment that is thought to be responsible for chamomile’s healing properties. Research suggests chamomile may reduce inflammation and help the muscles relax.
Infants and young children however, should never consume chamomile tea, because (like honey), it may be contaminated with botulism spores.
Ginger is another ancient remedy for tummy aches, nausea, and for pregnant women, morning sickness.
Studies suggest ginger’s effectiveness is due to its antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea properties. The oily resin from the roots of ginger contain bioactive compounds that are believed to help ease gastrointestinal (GI) distress.
If you decide to try ginger, ginger ale won’t cut it because it’s not made with real ginger root and is mostly sugar and high fructose corn syrup anyway.
Instead, try ginger tea, ginger beer (it’s non-alcoholic), or freshly grated ginger in a cup of warm water.
3. Heating pad
A heating pad (set on low) for about 20 minutes often does the trick when my kids have tummy aches. It helps relax the muscles in the abdomen and it can be soothing while your child is resting.
Peppermint, an herb which is a cross between water mint and spearmint, has been well researched and shown to be an effective remedy for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), according to a July 2014 study in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.
Less is known about peppermint’s effectiveness for indigestion or nausea but it’s still worth a try.
Peppermint tea seems to be safe for kids, but be sure to read warning labels.
Peppermint essential oil in a diffuser may be OK, but the oils should never be applied to an infant or child’s face or chest because serious side effects can occur if they inhale it, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
5. Produce and fiber-rich foods
If your child has a tummy ache because he’s constipated, a green vegetable smoothie, a few prunes or a small amount of prune juice may do the trick.
If constipation is a persistent problem, it’s important to talk to your pediatrician to rule out a medical condition.
Of course, taking a closer look at his diet is important too.
Avoid fast foods, processed foods and greasy foods and prioritize fruits and vegetables and other fiber-rich foods that can ease and prevent constipation.
6. Drink up
Sometimes drinking water is enough to get things moving and ease a tummy ache.
If you have a tough time getting your child to drink plain water, add slices of cucumber or strawberries, which will add a hint of flavor.