Kids experience a range of aches and pains during childhood, and abdominal pain is a frequent complaint. Most pains in the abdominal area don’t represent a medical emergency, but in certain situations, immediate medical attention is necessary. Understanding the implications of abdominal pain and the other symptoms to watch for will help you decide if your child needs immediate care.
Digestive problems sometimes result in abdominal pain for children. Constipation, gas, hunger or overeating are possibilities. An upset stomach often results from allergies or intolerance to food, spicy foods or high acidity in the diet. Food poisoning and intestinal illnesses cause pain in the abdominal area along with vomiting, diarrhea and other abdominal discomforts. While not as common, appendicitis and intestinal obstruction are two potentially serious conditions that cause abdominal pain.
The severity and location of the abdominal pain and any additional symptoms your child experiences help pinpoint the cause of the abdominal pain. Appendicitis comes with a constant pain that gradually gets worse. Fever, vomiting and difficulty standing are other possible side effects. An obstruction causes strong stomach pains with projectile vomiting of dark green bile. Gas pains tend to come and go, often feeling sharp when they do appear. An upset stomach generally causes pain throughout the stomach and may extend into the chest area if heartburn is also present. Note the characteristics of your child’s abdominal pain before calling the doctor.
If the pain stems from an underlying medical condition, your child might need medical treatment to remedy it. Abdominal pain coming from less serious causes, such as constipation and upset stomach, typically clears up on its own. A warm bath or warm compresses on the stomach can help relieve the pain for some kids. Over-the-counter medications like children’s antacids, pain relievers or gas relief drops are also a possibility. Try gently rubbing your child’s stomach for additional relief.
Monitor your child’s symptoms to determine the need for medical care. Have your child checked immediately if she shows signs of appendicitis or intestinal obstruction. Call your child’s doctor if fever, diarrhea and other symptoms don’t subside. Any unusual symptoms like a rash, swelling, changes in eating habits or blood in stools also warrant a call to your health care provider, according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Some children experience recurrent abdominal pain, according to the University of Michigan Health System. The pain is often affected by the child’s diet or anxiety. The abdominal pain might also be related to an underdeveloped nervous system. Consult with your child’s physician if she experiences regular abdominal pain without an apparent cause.