Tummy Upsets in Kids

There are lots of reasons kids can have tummy upsets and this post could go on for ever, but here are two things you might come across in your day-to-day care setting. To help you prepare for kids tummy upsets (and any illness really), make sure you have proper medical protocols/guidelines in place.

Kids Tummy Upset #1 – Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is a symptom, usually of an infection. It can be caused by several different kinds of germs and can easily be spread from one person to another. Hygiene and hand washing are important. Food Poisoning is also a cause of diarrhoea, again often because of germs or toxins from the bad food. Changes in diet can also cause diarrhoea.

What to look for:

  • stomach pains/cramping in the abdomen,
  • unusually frequent, liquid bowel movements,
  • blood in the stool,
  • dehydration (dry diaper, or peeing less often is one sign)

There is no specific number of bowel movements which indicate diarrhoea. Some people are ‘normal’ when they go twice daily, other people might go twice a week usually. It’s a case of spotting what’s different from normal for your kids.

Get medical attention for anyone who has

  • blood or mucous in the stool,
  • diarrhoea and vomiting together,
  • diarrhoea lasting more than 72 hrs (3 days),
  • unusually foul-smelling diarrhoea especially if the stool contains mucous.

General care includes letting them rest if needed and keeping them hydrated. Keep them on clear fluids for 24 hrs (no food, milk, ‘sodas’, etc.). If the diarrhoea persists beyond 24 hrs, talk to their parents or the doc about specific rehydration solutions which may be appropriate. If diarrhoea is severe, consider restricting activities for that day. Disinfect change/toilet areas (and anywhere else which may be contaminated) very carefully. Remember hand washing!


 Kids Tummy Upset #2 – Nausea/vomiting

tummy upsetCan have very many causes, but be aware that there may be an underlying condition which could be contagious. Persistent vomiting could be caused by illness, emotional upset, a reaction to medications, food/diet changes, or food poisoning. Other causes of vomiting are beyond this post, but if vomiting comes with a change in consciousness (eg: a head injury) call 9-1-1 for help.

What to look for:

  • nausea,
  • stomach pains,
  • vomiting

Get medical attention if

  • the vomiting does not pass (they continue to vomit, or try to, for hours)
  • there is also diarrhoea,
  • there is unexpected pain (beyond the normal tummy cramps),
  • there is blood in the vomit.

General care includes letting them rest if needed and keeping them hydrated. Keep them on clear fluids at first, once they start to feel better they can begin to try small amounts of plain foods – toast, bread, milk, nothing spicy at first! Remember to wipe down toilet areas or other spills and practice good hand hygiene.

About Tony Howarth

Tony is a First Aid & CPR Instructor Trainer with Sea 2 Sky Safety Training Services and the company founder. Tony started with the British Red Cross in 1994. Has acted as first aid attendant for hundreds of events & treated many hundreds of people as a result. He is experienced in training a wide range of courses. He previously worked as an ambulance attendant with the British Red Cross. He is now in BC as a first aid instructor, and an instructor trainer (one who trains others to become instructors) Finally, Tony works at Squamish General Hospital as the pharmacist manager when not busy training safety
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4 Responses to Tummy Upsets in Kids

  1. Paul says:

    There are many reasons for upset tummies in kids and one major one which does not involve bacteria or virus is when a toddler/kid has not had a movement for a few days. This can be of extreme concern to a parent. Some kids don’t go when their body tells them to or their diet causes constipation and after a while a tummy ache can occur.

    Being a stay at home parent I am very in tune with what goes on with my almost 5 year old as I was with my, now, 22 year old. But a lot of parents work full time and between daycare, school, sitters, family watching their kids, etc they can lose tabs on certain things as simple as a bowel movement. 4-5 days is not an issue but when it hits 9-10 days the child can start really experiencing side effects to not having the movement. And one of the major side effects is a tummy ache and loss of appetite.

    It is easy to get caught up with things and forget something like this. It is not the same as voiding but then again if a kid does not void that is indicative of another whole range of issues. My wife and I communicate with each other about pee, poops, eating habita, etc. just like we do about dentist and doctor appointments. Simple communication can solve a whole myriad of issues. For those of you who use sitters, daycare, etc, keep a log at home of all these things because it is important just like the first tooth or first word or or or……………

  2. Tony Howarth says:

    A very good point, as our 5 year old reminded us at midnight a couple of days ago!

  3. Paul says:

    Midnight, what a perfect time for a 5 yr old to tell you he/she needs to go. Haha

    • Tony Howarth says:

      Oh yes! It was more that she woke up crying and it took a while to work out why. Meds and massage and warm bath and then the toilet…. which worked. Now back to regular dried apricots which help mine. Thinking of which…. Kitchen time….

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