Symptoms of stomach ache

A stomach ache is simply a pain in your belly. You can calm a stomach ache by drinking clear fluids, eating a bland diet, and avoiding heavy, greasy, and spicy foods.
A stomach ache is simply a pain in your belly. You can calm a stomach ache by drinking clear fluids, eating a bland diet, and avoiding heavy, greasy, and spicy foods.

A stomach ache is simply a pain in your belly. A stomach ache is usually a sign that something is not right in your belly. There may be various reasons why you are having a stomach ache. In most cases, it occurs after there’s an inflammation of the stomach or intestinal lining. Sometimes you can treat it at home, but if it gets severe, consider seeking professional medical help.

Generally, a stomach ache is characterized by pain in the abdomen. However, you may get other symptoms that accompany stomach pain. Some of them include:

What causes stomach aches?

Because of the many organs located in the belly or abdomen, it might be hard to know what’s causing the stomach ache right away.

Infections

Stomach infections are a common cause of stomach aches. You may get a stomach ache due to either a bacterial or viral infection. A bacterial infection causes food poisoning, while a viral infection causes stomach flu or gastroenteritis. When any of the two types of infections get to your digestive system, your body will try to get rid of it by initiating diarrhea or vomiting. This may also come with a stomach ache.

Other conditions that may cause belly pain as a result of bacterial infection include:

Germs that cause bacterial and viral infections can easily get transferred between people. Try to prevent this by cleaning your hands regularly and not sharing utensils and straws with other people.

Reproductive issues

Conditions that affect the reproductive system can also cause stomach pains. Some conditions including STDs, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy, and menstrual cramps may cause belly pains in females. If you get stomach aches and you suspect pregnancy, consider seeing a doctor as soon as you can about it. In males, testicular injuries may cause issues like vomiting and bellyache if the injury is severe.

Food reactions

Food reactions may happen due to things like excessive eating, indigestion, food allergies, and intolerance.

A good example of intolerance is lactose intolerance, where your stomach cannot absorb foods with lactose (e.g. dairy milk products). This condition may lead to symptoms like gas, stomach ache, bloating, and diarrhea

Another example of a food reaction condition is celiac disease. This is an autoimmune condition that causes a reaction after consumption of gluten, a protein found in grains like rye, wheat, and barley. If you have gluten intolerance you should try avoiding food with these grains.

Food allergies are not the same as food intolerance. This is because food allergies involve the immune system. After consuming food that you are allergic to, your immune system causes a reaction that may harm your body more than just a temporary reaction. 

Anatomical issues

These are problems that affect how your organs work causing belly pain. Examples of conditions that cause stomach ache include Crohn’s disease, hernias, tumors, and torsion of organs.

Crohn’s disease is a condition that leads to swelling and scarring of the intestinal wall. This swelling may cause your intestines to block, and as a result, you feel pain in your belly.

Hernias and tumors also cause blockage of the intestines. In a case of torsion, which means twisting, you can get torsion of the ovaries, intestines, or testicles. This condition prevents blood supply to these organs and disrupts their normal functioning causing belly pains.

Constipation

Constipation is another common cause of stomach aches. Constipation occurs when you don’t include enough fluids and fiber in your diet.

Mental health issues

Going through mental or emotional issues like anxiety, stress, and depression may cause physical symptoms like stomach pains.

How to calm a stomach ache

As mentioned earlier, you can treat a stomach ache at home. An effective way to calm your stomach ache is to maintain a diet of fluids in the first 24 to 36 hours of getting the ache. Try taking these fluids frequently in small amounts until you get clear or pale yellow urine. If one of your symptoms is vomiting, start by drinking small amounts of water. 

After taking some water and your body gives a good response, you can try other fluids like:

  • Clear soup broth
  • Decaffeinated tea
  • Sports drinks
  • Popsicles
  • Non-caffeinated soft drinks

If your body shows tolerance to fluids, you can slowly start eating solid foods while still taking the fluids. Try simple foods like:

  • Plain white rice
  • White toast (apply only honey or jelly)
  • Apple sauce
  • Soda crackers
  • Bananas

Try to avoid alcohol, caffeine, whole grains, raw vegetables, spicy foods, greasy or fatty foods, and non-cultured dairy products like cheese and ice cream. It's important to note that you may get back your usual appetite and energy levels after some days or a week.

How to calm a child’s stomach ache

If your child is having a stomach ache, here are a few things you can do to calm their pain:

  • Make sure they get adequate rest
  • Avoid pushing them to eat
  • Have them take clear fluids like cooled boiled water
  • Offer them light foods like toast and crackers when they start getting hungry
  • Consider running a warm bath or placing a bottle of hot water or a hot wheat bag on their tummy. You should take care not to scald their skin. 
  • Consider giving them some over-the-counter pain medications. Check the packet first to know the right dose for children.

How to prevent stomach ache

There are a few ways you can try to prevent getting a stomach ache:

  • Always wash your hands with water and soap before handling food, and after using the toilet
  • Avoid sharing utensils
  • Avoid dairy products or foods with eggs that are not refrigerated
  • Always handle raw meats and poultry with care. Also, make sure you clean your utensils, hands, and work surface after preparing them and before handling another type of food.
  • Only consume bottled drinks and peelable fruits or vegetables when you travel to other countries.

QUESTION

Pancreatitis is inflammation of an organ in the abdomen called the pancreas. See Answer

When to see your doctor

You should consider seeing a doctor if you experience the following with your stomach ache:

  • Severe pain that doesn’t go away after some hours
  • Stomach pain accompanied by vaginal bleeding when pregnant
  • Belly pain and vomiting or difficulty breathing
  • If you are unable to urinate, poop, or pass gas
  • Belly pain that spreads to your neck, chest, and shoulders
  • If  you start getting pale and clammy
  • Blood in your urine or poop
  • Scrotum pains, in males
  • Fever and sweating
  • Vomiting blood

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Medically Reviewed on 4/26/2022
References
SOURCES:

Better Health: "Abdominal pain in adults," "Abdominal pain in children."

KidsHealth: "Stomachaches."

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Constipation," "Lactose Intolerance."

The Celiac Disease Foundation: "Gluten-Free Foods."

University of Wisconsin: "Upset Stomach."