INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — As the end of the school year approaches, your kids could be dealing with a lot of stress and doctors say that often leads to major stomach issues that go undiagnosed.
Stress can affect kids as young as two or three years old and cause a wide range of stomach issues from tummy aches to diarrhea, vomiting, or constipation. As many as 10 percent of school-age kids have stomach pain with no identified cause or diagnosis. What’s important is distinguishing whether your child is actually sick with a virus or if it is a recurring issue due to stress.
Doctors say with finals, student presentations, and other big end-of-the-school year events, this is a time to really keep a close eye on your child’s behavior.
If your child is young, it’s easy to keep track of how often they’re having bowel movements and the nature of those instances. But if your child is older, the bathroom is a private place, so look for changes in eating habits, sleep, and interest in activities that would normally be a part of your child’s every day life.
Stephanie Hullmann is a pediatric psychologist who works in the gastroenterology unit at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. She says her workload is consistently increasing. Dr. Hullmann urges parents to talk to your kids about upcoming stressful situations and help support them through it.
“I think our kids are under a lot more stress and a lot more pressure these days than they have been in the past. There’s a lot more pressure to do well in school, more so than there used to be and kids aren’t getting as much time to play and be kids and have those carefree years,” Dr. Hullmann said.
Students do cite school as a cause of stress, but also athletics and family issues like divorce or a move can be a big trigger. Still she says to try to keep your kids in their regular routine.
“It’s important to continue to do the things that stress us out, even though it stresses us out and make our belly hurt, because the more that we’ve avoid the worse the stress gets and the worse our physical symptoms get as well,” Dr. Hullmann said.
If you do think your child is dealing with some stomach issues, Dr. Hullmann suggests seeing you family doctor first to rule our any medical issues. Your doctor may perform a blood test, scan, or other measures to rule out a medical condition.
For more on stomach aches brought on from stress and anxiety, click here.