Children and tummy aches

* I am worried about my daughter who is in fourth class at school and who suffers from tummy aches.

After most meals she complains of pain. Could she be intolerant to certain foods? If so how do I find out which foods I need to eliminate?

>>Abdominal pain in children is very common and almost all children complain of tummy pain at some time. This can be caused by anything from indigestion to a viral illness and usually goes away completely once the problem disappears.

Up to a quarter of all children get what is called recurrent abdominal pain. It becomes more common between the ages of six and 12, with girls more likely to be affected, and can be associated with recurring headaches.

In most cases no physical problem is ever found, and the pain appears to be a physical symptom of anxiety. It is important to acknowledge that the pain is very real for the child no matter what is causing it. In these cases the most important treatment is reassurance that there is nothing serious causing the pain and looking for ways to tackle any worries the child may have.

In less than one in ten cases there is an underlying problem that will need to be treated. This might be as simple as constipation or a urinary infection, or something like celiac disease or food allergy or intolerance. Signs that things are more serious include: fevers, persistent vomiting or diarrhoea, not putting on weight, waking at night because of pain or blood in the bowel motions.

It is not a good idea to eliminate foods without a good reason and a clear plan, and as your daughter is having recurrent abdominal pain, I think you need to make an appointment with your GP, who can assess your daughter so that any underlying disorder can be identified and investigated, or eliminated, and can help you make a plan to manage the problem.

Separately, you might talk to your daughter about the recurrent abdominal pain and if there is anything that might be worrying her, such as returning to school and the work that she is doing in fourth class. Pick a time when the two of you can talk uninterrupted and encourage her to talk to you about any worries she may have.

* My 12-year-old daughter has recently started secondary school. She is finding the transition tough and a rash has broken out on her face. I know it’ll probably clear up once she settles in but is there anything I can do to help meantime?

>>Making the transition from primary to secondary school is a huge adjustment and if she is feeling the pressure it is possible that this may be contributing to the rash. Skin rashes can have many causes. Both eczema and acne can be made worse by stress. It is possible that your daughter’s rash could be related to her reaching puberty.

I think you should bring your daughter to your GP, who can assess the rash and discuss if any treatment is needed.

In the meantime, she should try to avoid aggravating the rash and there are a number of simple options that she can try:

* Wash face twice a day with a mild soap or soap substitute (not a facial scrub) and lukewarm water.

* Avoid touching or scratching the face.

* Avoid using oil-based creams/products (including make-up) as they may clog the pores.

* If she has long hair or a fringe wash it regularly so that it does not get greasy and keep it off the face.

* Has her diet changed with the move to secondary school? Fizzy drinks, processed foods or crisps and chocolate can affect the skin.

You should talk to your daughter about how she is getting on at school. Pick a time at the weekend when you can go for a walk or for a coffee.


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