What is abdominal pain in children?
Children often complain of abdominal pain. This is one of the most common reasons that parents take their children to the doctor or hospital emergency department. Abdominal pain is difficult to diagnose. The doctor will ask you questions and then examine your baby. Sometimes the problem can be very obvious, so testing is not necessary.
Most children with abdominal pain improve within hours or days without special treatment, and the cause is often not found. Sometimes the cause becomes apparent over time and treatment can begin. If pain or other problems persist, see your doctor.
Causes of abdominal pain in children
Many health problems can cause abdominal pain in children, including:
- Bowel problems: Constipation, colon, or irritable bowel
- Infections: Gastroenteritis, infections of the kidneys or bladder, or other parts of the body such as the ear or chest
- Food-related problems: Excessive food, food poisoning, or food allergies
- Problems outside the abdomen: Muscle tension or migraine
- Surgical complications: Appendicitis, intestinal obstruction, or intussusception (bowel extension)
- Period pain: Some girls have pain before their period’s start
- Poison: Poison, such as spider bites, eating soap, or smoking
Repeat attacks of abdominal pain
Some children have recurring bouts of abdominal pain, which can be a concern for parents. Often, no health problems are detected.
Stomach pain occurs when children worry about themselves or the people around them. Think about whether there is anything to distract your child at home, at school, in kindergarten, or with friends. Consult your local physician for advice. Referral to a pediatrician (a doctor who specializes in children) may be necessary.
Appendicitis explained: Appendicitis is one of the most common reasons why your child may need surgery. The appendix is a small dead-end tube that comes out of part of the intestine. If this tube is blocked, it can cause an infection. Appendicitis can occur at any age, but it is very rare in young children.
The pain often begins in the middle of the abdomen and moves less to the right. The stomach becomes painful to the touch. It can be very serious when coughing and walking. A child with appendicitis may show signs of illness such as fever, food refusal, vomiting, or (sometimes) diarrhea.
If you are concerned that your child may have appendicitis, visit your local doctor or go to the nearest hospital emergency department. A frequent operation is required to remove the appendix, but in some cases, the problem resolves without surgery.
Diagnosis of abdominal pain in children
When the problem is very clear, testing is not necessary. If tests are required, they may include:
- Blood test
- Urine test
- Stool pattern (flower)
- Other special tests
- Review of the specialist doctor
If your child has the test, the doctor should explain the results to you. Some results may take several days to return and these results will be sent to your local physician.
Treatment for abdominal pain in children
Your child’s treatment will depend on what the doctor thinks is causing her pain. Sending your baby home with tips like rest, fluid intake, and a bland diet is very easy to deal with. Other treatment options include hospitalization and surgery.
Take care of your child with abdominal pain
General tips to reduce pain:
- Make sure your child is rested.
- Help your child drink clear liquids like cold boiled water or juice.
- Don’t pressure your child to eat if he or she is feeling unwell.
- If your child is hungry, offer flat foods like crackers, rice, bananas, or toast.
- Place a hot water bottle or brown bag on your child’s stomach or bathe her with warm water. Be careful not to abuse yourself or your child.
- Give acetaminophen if your child is in pain or miserable. Keep in mind that the dosage for children often varies from adult to adult, so check the package carefully for the correct dosage. Avoid giving aspirin.
When to see a doctor
If you have a child, go to your local doctor or the nearest hospital emergency department:
- Fever or cold
- You get pale, sweaty, or sick
- Vomiting for 24 hours
- Refused to eat or drink
- Produce urinary problems or four wet diapers a day
- Painful rash
- Another problem related to you