Abdominal pain is pain that you feel anywhere between the chest and groin. This is often called the stomach area or belly.
This article discusses abdominal pain in children under age 12.
Almost all children experience pain in the abdomen at one time or another. Most of the time, it is not caused by a serious medical problem.
Severe abdominal pain can sometimes be from mild conditions, such as gas or the cramping of stomach flu. On the other hand, mild pain or no pain may be present with life-threatening conditions, such as cancer or early appendicitis.
Ways of describing the pain include:
Infants and toddlers cannot describe their pain. Signs of belly pain may be:
Many different conditions can cause abdominal pain in a child. The key is to know when you must seek medical care right away. In many cases you can simply wait, use home care remedies, and call your doctor at a later time only if the symptoms don't go away.
In infants, prlonged unexplained crying (often called "colic") may be caused by abdominal pain. It may end with the passage of gas or stool. Colic is often worse in the evening. Cuddling and rocking the child may bring some relief.
Less serious causes of abdominal pain include:
Other possible causes include:
Sickle cell disease crisis may cause abdominal pain. It sometimes may be mistaken for the pain of appendicitis or conditions of other abdominal organs.
When milder pain begins, ask your child to lie quietly to see if it goes away. Sometimes sips of water or other clear fluids may help. You may also ask your child to try to pass stool.
Avoid solid foods for the first few hours. Then try small amounts of mild foods such as rice, applesauce, or crackers.
Do not give aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or similar medicines without first asking your child's health care provider.
To prevent many types of abdominal pain:
Seek immediate medical help or call your local emergency number (such as 911) if your child:
Call your doctor if your child has:
Knowing the location of pain and its time pattern will help. Also let the doctor know if there are other symptoms like fever, fatigue, general ill feeling, nausea, vomiting, or changes in stool.
Your doctor may ask the following questions about the abdominal pain:
During the physical examination, the doctor will test to see if the pain is in a single area (point tenderness) or whether it is spread out.
Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:
Stomach pain in children; Pain - abdomen - children; Abdominal cramps in children; Belly ache in children
Ebell MH. Diagnosis of appendicitis: part 1. History and physical examination. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77:828-830.
Bundy DG, Byerley JS, Liles EA, Perrin EM, Katznelson J, Rice HE. Does this child have appendicitis? JAMA. 2007;25:438-451.
Rimon, N, Bengiamin RN, Budhram GR, King KE, Wightman JM. Abdominal pain. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2009:chap 21.
Sreedharan R, Liacouras CA. Major Symptoms and Signs of Digestive Tract Disorders. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 298.
Updated by: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., and Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 1997-2014, A.D.A.M., Inc. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized in writing by ADAM Health Solutions.