Why some kids get stomachaches before school

By Julie Rawe

Some kids rarely get stomachaches. For others, it’s a common occurrence — especially on school days. They often wake up with pain that’s bad enough to make them want to stay home or not attend class. 

What’s causing their frequent stomach problems? It might be something physical, like constipation or lactose intolerance. But stomachaches can also be caused by stress. 

Doctors sometimes call this type of stomachache “psychosomatic” because it’s triggered by thoughts. While the cause isn’t physical, the pain is real. (Migraines are also often caused by stress.)

Stress doesn’t only cause pain — it can also affect our tolerance for pain. For example, a gas bubble might not bother us much when we’re happy and well-rested. But it might be very uncomfortable when we’re tired and stressed.

Frequent stomachaches or visits to the school nurse can sometimes be a sign that kids are struggling in school. The challenges may be academic or social.

No matter what the cause, starting a dialogue is a good first step to find out what’s going on.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Julie Rawe is the special projects editor at Understood.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Roberto Olivardia, PhD is a clinical psychologist and lecturer in psychology at Harvard Medical School.