Raising Healthy Kids: Kidney stones

A medical problem once considered an adult concern is being seen among kids.

In this week's edition of "Raising Healthy Kids," health reporter and registered nurse Ali Gorman tells us about kidney stones.

For 7-year-old Taylor Riggins, it began last January with a tummy ache.

Marian Riggins, Taylor's mother said, "They just kept telling me it's a stomach bug, there's a stomach bug going around. But I knew better, because nobody else in the house was getting it."

The discomfort & vomiting didn't go away.

From January until April, Taylor was hospitalized twice, with dehydration, then a kidney infection.

On that second stay, they found the problem.

"She had two kidney stones, and one was stuck," said Marian.

Dr. Gregory Tasian of Children's Hospital Kidney Stone Center says the number of adults with kidney stones has gone up 70 percent.

And among kids, especially teens, that rate may be even greater.

Dr. Tasian says they come from calcium and other compounds building up inside the kidney.

"The stone may break off and cause obstruction of the ureter," said Dr. Tasian

Even a 4-millimeter stone can cause pain. Sometimes it's sharp, and sometimes it moves around.

Marian said, "She kept saying, 'Well, it hurts here, it hurts here.'"

Family history is one factor. So is a diet of too little water or too much salt.

Dr. Tasian's research also shows climate plays a role.

"At the temperature extremes - at high heat, hot temperatures, and then in some cities like Chicago and Philadelphia, at cold temperatures - the risk of stones increased rather abruptly and dramatically. The thirst response is less in cold temperatures," he continued.

"Just by drinking less, even though you're not losing water (as in summer), you can become dehydrated," he added.

Medication to relax the ureter and encourage the stone to pass, is the first treatment doctors try.

Dr. Tasian says he usually allows a month for that to work. If it doesn't, or if the child is in significant pain, surgery is considered.

And because of a child's small size, it may take several operations to completely remove the stone.

Taylor needed surgery to clear one stone.

She has another one, but it isn't causing any problems for now.

And to help prevent problems she's drinking a lot more water, and eating a low salt diet.

"We do not eat any processed food," Marian Riggins says of the way she, her husband, and their 3 children now live.

Marian says even at school or social events, her daughter now reads package labels for sodium content, and if levels are high, she passes on the food.

"I turned the whole house around," says Riggins.

And she says the whole family feels a lot better for it.

For more information on kidney stones visit, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia website.

Copyright © 2022 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.