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Tummy aches and Halloween

October 29, 2012
The Daily News

The kids, just back from trick-or-treating, are sitting on the floor with huge mounds of candy in front of them.

They're peeling the wrapper off another piece of candy before the one in their mouth is gone. Their only concern is how fast they can eat it.

What comes next? The tummy ache.

But when is a tummy ache more than just a tummy ache?

Most adults have had a stomach ache sometime during their lives, but kids seem to be afflicted with them much more often than adults.

A good 10 percent to 20 percent of kids are bothered by abdominal pain to the point that it interferes with their normal routines, and 10 percent of those have no identifiable cause (a condition known as recurrent abdominal pain, or RAP).

So, experts say, the time to be seen by a doctor for a stomach ache is when the pain is combined with fever, vomiting, diarrhea, poor weight gain, weight loss or sharp localized pain.

Stomach complaints can be linked to many things, including distention from eating too much, intolerance to certain foods and bowel spasms.

But that is not always the case.

At times like Halloween, a condition called hypoglycemia may also be a culprit of tummy aches after the chocolate and candy corn are gone.

The kids sometimes just eat too much candy.

The candies often have a lot of sugar in them, raising the level of sugar in their blood stream dramatically, which causes release of insulin.

Suddenly, the candy's gone from their system. Their blood sugar now is coming down, but the insulin's still around and the kids get hypoglycemia.

Their blood sugar is quite low and they often feel very sick. They get pale, complain of nausea, sometimes even vomit.

To avoid problems, experts at the University of Michigan suggest that parents limit the number of pieces of candy that their kids eat, especially that first evening.

Experts also suggest serving a healthy supper before trick-or-treating. A good meal leaves less room for sugary sweets.

To treat the tummy aches, kids can take some of the over-the-counter medications, but for a lot of them, the dosages are much different for children than for adults.

Before administering some over-the-counter medication, experts recommend checking with a physician to make sure that the dose is appropriate for the child.

One general rule to follow is "if it is pain alone, we leave it alone," experts say.

Concerns arise if a child also experiences a fever, vomiting, diarrhea, poor weight gain, or even weight loss with their tummy ache.

At those times, parents will want to have a physician evaluate their child.

Parents also need to be aware, if there are toddlers in the house, of other dangers in the Halloween bags.

While checking all candy for tampering, also remove candy that presents a choking hazard.

Candies that are particularly easy to choke on are the large hard candies such as jaw breakers, or smaller ones that can get directly into the lungs such as peanuts or other small candy.

Don't allow toddlers to have those types of candy.

For the health of their teeth, toddlers to teens should be sure to brush their teeth before they go to bed after trick-or-treating.

Here are some facts about stomach aches:

- Stomach aches will interfere with the normal activities of 10 percent to 20 percent of children.

- Many children complain of stomach pain with no identifiable cause. Doctors refer to this syndrome as recurrent abdominal pain or RAP.

- Stomach pain can be caused by constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease. It also can have a psychological origin.



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