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Upset Tummy In Children


As a parent it is hard when your child complains of a “sore tummy”.  This can be a frequent complaint for some children.



Upset tummies can be caused by a number of reasons including:


Colic is a sharp gastrointestinal pain which leads to daily crying. Researchers have not yet been able to determine the cause of colic. Most infants outgrow colic by six months of age.


Food intolerances
These are caused when the body is unable to break down food properly. Quite often this is due to a lack of enzymes able to break down the food or food simply not being absorbed properly. Food intolerances may also be caused by naturally occurring chemicals found in foods such as amines, glutamates, salicylates and sulphur based preservatives. Another common cause of food intolerances is short chain carbohydrates, which are poorly absorbed in the body. Common symptoms include pain, bloating, excess wind, constipation and diarrhoea. If you suspect that your child may have suffer from food intolerances, it is important to have the foods causing the problem identified and the condition diagnosed and managed by an Accredited Practising Dietitian.


Food poisoning and tummy infections are commonly known as gastroenteritis. The onset of symptoms occurs in a short period of time after eating food that contains harmful bacteria. The presence of bacteria results in inflammation within the stomach and intestines, and physical symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea. It is important to monitor your child for dehydration which can occur rapidly with diarrhoea and vomiting.


Constipation in toddlers can be caused by a lack of fibre in the diet or stool holding (not going to the toilet when you need to). Including high fibre foods such as oats, fruit, vegetables, wholegrain bread and cereals and plenty of water can help prevent and alleviate constipation.



In most children an upset tummy is not serious and will go away on its own. Treatment will need to be determined by the cause of the discomfort.


See the doctor when:

  • The tummy is sore to touch,
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting is ongoing for more than 24 hours,
  • Your child isn’t eating or drinking, 
  • Your child has a fever or chills.



The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and is a guide only. It does not replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any action based on the content of this webpage.



Better Health Channel

Raising Children Network


Sydney’s Children’s hospital