Tag Archives: elementary school

The Stomach Ache


Image courtesy of arztsamui

The vaguest symptom in the history of symptoms.  The classic.  The stomach ache.

Any day of the week, any month of the year, the most popular complaint that lands kids in the nurse’s office is the stomach ache.  This symptom can be caused by a vast assortment of reasons, and the school nurse has to gets to play detective to discover the cause of the tummy trouble on a case-by-case basis.  I’ve found that asking this one question can shed a lot of light on the subject:  “Why do you think your stomach hurts?”

  • “Because I didn’t eat breakfast.” (Break out the Saltines)
  • “Because I ate Taki’s for snack.”  (Heartburn City)
  • “Because I ate too much at lunch.” (Try to use the restroom, and that’s an order!)
  • “Because the soccer ball hit me in the stomach at recess.”  (Oh, ok then let’s see that stomach – injury assessment time)
  • “Because I’m nervous about my test.” (Give TLC – they just need a little “brain break”)
  • “Because I saw Johnny eating ketchup and oranges together at lunch.” (This kid is a “gagger” who is sensitive to unpleasant stimuli – I give him ice chips to crunch on and we talk about other things to distract him from the revolting sight they just witnessed)
  • “Because my sister coughed on me – she’s home sick today.” (Faker Alert! This kid thinks he’s going home to join the party.)
  • “Because…I…you know…I started…” (Allow me to show you my selection of feminine hygiene products – and let’s call mom – my students are elementary age so it’s a BIG deal to have these symptoms.  Moms usually want to hear about it.)
Image courtesy of Ohmega1982 FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ohmega1982

Equally as important as what my students say, is their body language.  Signs of a legitimate stomach ache include:

  • Holding belly
  • Walking hunched over
  • Pale/yellowish/greenish skin
  • Unbuttoning the pants (these students are usually bloated and genuinely uncomfortable)
  • Pain that is localized (lower right side could be appendix, etc) as opposed to generalized “my whole stomach hurts” type pain
  • Can’t get comfortable on the cot, restless (sometimes this means they’re about to throw up – trust me on this one)
  • Much quieter than usual, teacher says he’s “not himself today”
  • Grimacing with ACTUAL tears – and school nurses can spot the Oscar contenders from a mile away
Image courtesy of Ambro FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro

Signs of a fake stomach ache include:

  • Smiling
  • Chatting with other kids in the clinic (“OMG Joe what are you doing in here?!” giggle, giggle)
  • Student says “I threw up in the bathroom.” (If they threw up in front of a reliable witness – not their BFF – I’m more apt to believe them.  True vomiting is hard to control.  It doesn’t just happen conveniently in the bathroom – it’s difficult to contain.
  • A “frequent flyer” who doesn’t ask his teacher for permission to come, but waits until he is at lunch, PE, Art, etc to ask that unsuspecting teacher (who doesn’t know his habits as well as his homeroom teacher) to send him to the clinic.  We talk to these students about the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” phenomenon – “One day you’re really going to be sick and no one will believe you!”

It’s funny how kids think they’re the first ones in history to come up with their brilliant tactics.  So in the spirit of the hilarity of children and their bag of tricks, I’ll leave you with the this scene from the biggest faker of them all, Ferris Bueller.

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Things That Make The School Nurse Cringe

It’s not what you might think.  Nurses don’t cringe at your run-of-the-mill blood and guts.  Bodily fluids – bring ’em on!  What I’m talking about are the “accidents-waiting-to-happen,” lurking, insidious dangers.

scooter board

Remember scooter boards?

1.  Scooter boards in P.E.  Yes they’re still around!  Yes the kids LOVE them!  It’s all fun and games until someone runs over their own fingers – that’s right, their own fingers, or someone slides right off onto their stomach, or yet another somehow flips it and bumps their head on the ground.

upside down monkey bars

Why do they love hanging upside down??

2.  Monkey bars – It’s safe to say most school nurses wish they could dismantle the monkey bars, or otherwise render them useless.  We have ALL seen injuries from this equipment – ranging from the very minor (blisters on the hands or bumps to the head) to the grotesque (my mom is a retired school nurse and had to send a student by EMS for a horrific leg injury).  Often the more serious injuries happen when the kids hang upside down.


How swings should be used.

3.  Swings – Ah, the swings.  The wind in your hair.  The freedom of gliding in mid air.  Then suddenly WHACK! – A student walks too close to the swing and gets kicked in the face – down he goes!  Or, a little one’s fingers get caught in the swing chains – sprained and bruised! Or, a student leaps off while the swing is high in the sky and they land on their arm – broken!  (True story, I’ve had a kid break BOTH arms from falling off a swing – unbelievable!).

charlie brown football

4.  Any sport with a ball – Kids love to play football, basketball, and soccer at recess.  It is supposed to be “touch” football but some students have a heavier hand than others (we’ll just put it that way).  Of course this leads to all kinds of bodily injuries.  I had a student sustain a serious eye injury from being “karate-chopped” to the face during one of these games.   And of course these tough kids get right back out there and keep playing!


Chew your food! No laughing! No talking!

5.  The cafeteria –  Can you say choking hazard and food allergy hotbed!?  I don’t even like setting foot in the cafeteria because I can’t help but see all the wide open, laughing, ready-to-aspirate mouths everywhere I turn!

field day

Field Day already??

6.  Field Day – It’s organized.  But it’s chaos.  Kids rotating through different stations, hyper from the excitement of the day.  That makes for trips, slips and falls.  But man, how they love it!

jumping rope

What could happen jumping rope??

7.  Jumping rope – This is a recent addition to my list of cringe-worthy activities.  I had a student fracture their humerus (the long bone in the upper arm) from falling while jumping rope.

So this leads me to the conclusion that, although physical activity is a vital and necessary part of the school day – injuries are bound to happen.  There’s no need to be paranoid – just be prepared, for literally anything!

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