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Children's Health

Faking illness

01/23/2009

Question:

I have looked into symptoms of stomach virus. I have a child that say her stomach hurts and have questionable vomiting, no diahrea. I took her to the doctor and the doctor said it was a stomach virus. The question is, was that an answer the doctor gave me because he feel it wasn`t anything wrong with my child. Can a adult or child can have a stomach virus without diahrea?

Answer:

Stomach pain is a tough symptom to follow to a clear cause. I can say that enteric or stomach viruses are numerous and children have wide exposure to them in day care and school settings. Children also tend not to wash their hands well or often, which increases their risk for getting viral infections. Stomach viruses often do present with stomach or abdominal pain and either vomiting, diarrhea, or both vomiting and diarrhea.

Fortunately, most children are quite resilient and recover quickly from these viruses. The greatest risk to a child is from dehydration from prolonged and/ or large amounts of vomiting and diarrhea. Dehydration leads to dry lips and mouth, sunken eyes, listlessness or lethargy or even unconsciousness, and poor urinary output. Children with any of these symptoms as a result of vomiting and diarrhea should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Eating spicy foods and taking some medications such as antibiotics can cause stomach pain. School-age children often also complain of stomach pain when they are anxious or worried about something - anywhere from a test at school, to encountering bullies, dreading PE class, or worrying about the safety of an abused parent at home. I don't know how old your child is, but with a school-age child and without clear evidence of vomiting and diarrhea, I would gently explore with the child whether or not there is anything new or worrisome going on among his or her friends, in the neighborhood or school. If there is a lot of stress at home over a move or anticipated move or a change of some sort, this may be the root of the problem. For many of us and throughout our lives, physical symptoms are a more acceptable expression of our inner hurting. In the absence of fever, vomiting, and diarrhea or other problems, it is a wise parent who also checks out life stress.

I hope your child is feeling better soon! The CDC website has excellent information on enteric viruses if you want to read more www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/gastro.htm

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Response by:

Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University