Stomachaches: Is It Clinical or Emotional?

A veteran school nurse gives tips for school principals to be able to identify whether students' stomachaches are caused by physical ailments or are due to emotional distress.

Topics: NAESP Partner

As a school nurse with 28 years of experience, I have seen many students visit my office with complaints of stomachaches. While some of these cases might be caused by physical ailments, others are due to emotional distress. As a principal or school leader, it’s important to be aware of how to distinguish between the two and provide support accordingly.

Is It Physical?

The first step in determining the cause of a student’s stomachache is to ask them to describe their pain. Clinical stomachaches are often accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea and are typically described as a dull, achy pain in the abdominal area. In such cases, it’s important to ensure that the student stays hydrated and seeks medical attention if the symptoms persist or worsen.

Additionally, it’s crucial to disinfect surfaces that might have come into contact with germs that could cause stomach ailments. I recommend products like Lysol Disinfecting Wipes. Simple solutions such as wiping down surfaces with Lysol Disinfecting Wipes or disinfecting with Lysol Disinfecting Spray can help prevent the spread of illness-causing germs from spreading further throughout the classroom.

Lysol’s HERE for Healthy Schools Program offers interactive lesson plans, age-specific activities, and worksheets to make it easy to help children learn healthy habits in fun and engaging ways. Encourage your teachers to implement these resources into their lesson plans to help reduce the spread of germs that may cause physical stomachaches. Learn more about Lysol’s HERE for Healthy Schools resources.

Is It Emotional?

On the other hand, emotional stomachaches are characterized as sharp pains that come and go and might be accompanied by other symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, or fatigue. If the student’s stomachache is not accompanied by other symptoms, it’s important to engage in conversation with them and identify any underlying emotional distress that might be causing their discomfort. Encourage them to share their feelings and listen without judgment. This open dialogue can create a supportive environment where the student feels comfortable sharing their emotions.

Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help the student to relax. Encourage them to take breaks throughout the day to engage in these activities and to take care of their emotional well-being. Creating a safe and supportive environment in the school and providing opportunities for students to engage in activities they enjoy can also help alleviate emotional distress.

As school leaders, it’s essential to prioritize the physical and emotional health of our students. By understanding the symptoms of clinical and emotional stomachaches, we can take appropriate steps to help students feel better and stay healthy. Providing a supportive environment and resources such as relaxation techniques and access to mental health professionals can go a long way in helping students manage any physical or emotional challenges they may be experiencing.

As educators and school leaders, it is essential to understand the difference between physical and emotional stomach aches and take appropriate steps to help students feel better and stay healthy. By leveraging resources such as the Lysol’s HERE for Healthy Schools Program and seeking assistance from medical or mental health professionals when needed, we can create a supportive environment that promotes the overall physical and mental well-being of our students.

Holly Giovi, RN, is a school nurse from Long Island, New York.