Kids and Stomachaches


“No matter what the cause of the stomachache, the pain is real,” says Dr. Mitchell Katz. So what causes tummy trouble? It can be as specific as an ulcer, a dietary issue, pneumonia or a sinus infection. “Stomachaches are extraordinarily common. Although always a concern, the majority of kids with abdominal pain do not require urgent intervention,” says Dr. Katz.


To decide how serious the pain is and whether it’s organic (like an ulcer or appendicitis) or non-organic (like stress), parents need to pay attention to the location. “If the pain is under the belly button there is a greater likelihood that the pain is nonorganic than if it is further away from the belly button,” says Dr. Katz.

Other common causes of abdominal issues:

  • GI tract infection
  • Acid reflux
  • Constipation


Parents have to take a step back and judge the severity of the pain when deciding to give their child medications for stomach issues, says Dr. Katz. “If they think the issues are due to something as simple as a few missed bowel movements, there’s no harm in a stool softener. If significant pain is present, it’s always better to call your primary care provider to talk about the condition,” says Dr. Katz.


“The vast majority of stomachaches can be diagnosed and dealt with after an appropriate history and physical examination,” says Dr. Katz. If these red flags are present, call your doctor:

  • Blood in stool
  • Change in appetite, body weight
  • Pain that interrupts sleep
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever


  • The age range in which most cases of appendicitis occur: 10-30 Years Old
  • The number of hours that heartburn can last: 2 Hours
  • The number of Americans that develop at least one ulcer during their lifetime: 25 Million

Meet Dr. Katz - CHOC Gastroenterologist

Dr. Mitchell Katz is currently director of CHOC’s multidisciplinary feeding team, pediatric GI lab services, and the division of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition. He was a fellow in pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition at the University of California, San Francisco and is a five-time recipient of the Orange County Medical Association’s Physician of Excellence award.

Dr. Katz’s philosophy of care: “Listening carefully to the child and the parent. Explore where the child and the family are in life and understand the interrelation between health and emotional well-being.”

State University of New York at Downstate Medical School

Pediatrics and Pediatric Gastroenterology

Dr. Mitchell Katz

CHOC Radio Podcast: Stomachaches

CHOC Pediatric Gastroenterologist Dr. Mitchell Katz talks with CHOC Radio host Bryan Mundia about the symptoms of stomach aches and pains in children. Dr. Katz says that all pain is real and parents are the key in understanding why their child might be in pain. Dr. Katz also discusses the red flags that may be indicators of potentially more serious gastrointestinal issues.

Dr. Katz is currently director of CHOC’s multidisciplinary feeding team, pediatric GI lab services, and the division of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition.

Dr. Mitchell Katz in Seacrest Studio

Gastrointestinal Problems in Children

Over 95 million Americans experience some kind of digestive problems and children are included among them. In this video from American Health Journal, Dr. Mitchell Katz talks about signs and symptoms of stomachaches and other gastrointestinal issues commonly found in children. Learn more about Dr. Katz.

Stomachache Tip Sheet

Stomachaches can be caused by many things, from gas or constipation to stress, overeating, or a contagious stomach bug. Sometimes, complaints about stomach pain may have nothing to do with the stomach itself — pain can come from another part of the body.

Stomachache signs and symptoms

Knowledge is the best medicine. Learn more about your child's health in these features from the experts at CHOC.

Overscheduled Kids
There are a number of studies that suggest kids actually do need some unstructured time. Kids need moments when they can use their imagination, daydream and even goof off a little bit, she says. And no, this doesn’t mean parents should allow kids to play video games all day.

Kids and Germs
“Germs is a nonmedical term for any organism that can cause an infection,” says Dr. Nieves. What kind of infections? Kids, especially in schools, can contract respiratory infections as well as skin infections.

Kids and Headaches
“A headache is pain or discomfort in the head or face area. It can be acute (sudden) or chronic (recurrent). “For a child with an acute headache, you want to make sure there are no other problems that need to be addressed, such as an infection,” says Fernandez.

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