Indigestion is a vague chest or abdominal discomfort--with no apparent organic cause -- that occurs during or soon after eating or drinking. The stomach, esophagus, and small intestine are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications (severe, recurrent indigestion only).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSMild nausea; heartburn; upper abdominal pain; gas or belching; bloated or full feeling; acid taste.
Symptoms seem related to eating, drinking, or swallowing air while talking or chewing gum. They occur often with emotional upset while eating, excessive smoking, constipation, eating improperly cooked food, eating high-fat food, poor digestion of gas-forming foods (such as beans, cucumbers, cabbage, turnips, and onions), food allergy, or overindulgence in alcohol.
Stress, smoking, excess alcohol consumption, use of drugs that may irritate the stomach, and fatigue or overwork.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEInstructions for your child: Avoid foods you don't digest well, don't smoke, relax after meals, avoid emotional situations during meals, and don't eat fast.
Persistent symptoms can indicate disease in the digestive tract or other body parts. Occasionally, symptoms occur in children with no apparent disease. This indicates an abnormal function in a normal part of the body.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
X-rays of the upper digestive tract.
Gastroscopy (See Glossary).
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSIndigestion may mimic signs of a heart attack or serious disease of the esophagus or stomach, causing the serious disorder to be ignored.
Symptoms can be controlled with treatment, but recurrence is likely.
HOME CARETreatment and prevention are similar. Instructions for your child:
Allow time for leisurely meals. Chew food carefully and thoroughly. Avoid conflicts during meals.
Don't smoke immediately before a meal.
Avoid excitement or exercise immediately after a meal.
Avoid situations that make you swallow air, such as chewing gum.
Observe episodes of indigestion for changes in symptoms. If character, timing, frequency, or severity changes, a more serious disorder may be responsible. These include heartburn from irritation of the lower esophagus, gallbladder disease, ulcers, or stomach cancer.
MEDICATIONFor minor discomfort, use non-prescription antacids.
For serious discomfort, your doctor may prescribe H-2 blockers, anti-spasmodics or tranquilizers to relieve your child's tension.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet. Your child should avoid foods--especially those listed under causes -- that cause discomfort.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
The pattern of indigestion symptoms changes markedly.
Your child develops the following:
-- Vomiting, weight loss or loss of appetite.
-- Black, tarry stool or vomiting of blood.
-- Severe pain in the upper right abdomen.
-- Discomfort that continues unrelated to meals, eating, or chewing gum.
Indigestion is accompanied by:
-- Shortness of breath.
-- Pain radiating to the jaw, neck, or arm.