Indigestion in Children: Care Instructions

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Indigestion is pain in the upper part of the belly. It is also called dyspepsia. It often occurs with bloating, burning, burping, and nausea. Most of the time it happens while or after eating. It's usually minor and goes away within several hours.

Sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint the cause of this problem. Home treatment and over-the-counter medicine often can control symptoms. Try to avoid the foods and situations that cause it. This may keep it from coming back.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Try changes in your child's diet. It may help to:
    • Eat smaller meals throughout the day.
    • Avoid snacking close to bedtime.
    • Avoid chocolate and fatty or fried foods.
    • Avoid peppermint- or spearmint-flavored foods.
    • Avoid drinks with caffeine or carbonation.
    • Limit foods that are spicy or high in acid. These include citrus, tomatoes, and vinegar.
    • Eat protein-rich, low-fat foods.
    • Have your child wait 2 to 3 hours after eating before lying down or exercising.
  • Avoid dressing your child in tight clothing, especially around the belly.
  • Do not give your child anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). These can irritate the stomach. If you need a pain medicine, try acetaminophen (Tylenol). It does not cause stomach upset.
  • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Help your child have regular bowel movements.
    • Give your child plenty of water and other fluids.
    • Give your child lots of high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Add at least 2 servings of fruits and 3 servings of vegetables every day. Serve bran muffins, graham crackers, oatmeal, and brown rice. Serve whole wheat bread, not white bread.
  • Help your child relax and lower stress.
  • Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medicine. Antacids such as children's versions of Tums, Maalox, or Mylanta may help. Be careful when you give your child over-the-counter antacid medicines. Many of these medicines have aspirin in them. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Your doctor also may recommend over-the-counter acid reducers, such as famotidine (Pepcid AC), cimetidine (Tagamet HB ), or omeprazole (Prilosec). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. If your child needs these medicines often, talk with your doctor.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child vomits blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • Your child passes maroon or very bloody stools.
  • Your child has severe belly pain.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse belly pain.
  • Your child's stools are black and look like tar, or have streaks of blood.
  • Your child has trouble swallowing.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child is losing weight and you do not know why.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.