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in children is a common problem. About 1 out of 3 children is seen by a
doctor for abdominal pain by the time they are age 15, but only a small number of
these children have a serious problem.
Complaints of abdominal pain
are more common in children younger than 11 years and are often caused by
changes in eating and bowel habits. Most cases of abdominal pain are not
serious, and home treatment is often all that is needed to help relieve the
Abdominal pain in children is often frightening and
frustrating for parents. Many times it is hard to find the exact cause of a
child's abdominal pain. Pain without other symptoms that goes away completely
in less than 3 hours is usually not serious.
In children, abdominal
pain may be related to
injury to the abdomen or
an illness, such as
an upset stomach, an
ear infection, a
urinary tract infection, or
strep throat. Constipation is a common cause of
abdominal pain in children. Some more serious causes of abdominal pain in
lead poisoning, or problems with the intestines, such
malrotation. Girls who start having menstrual periods
may have abdominal pain each month, and the pain may be more severe in some
months than others.
Generalized pain occurs in half of the abdomen or more. Localized pain is located in one area of the abdomen. Babies and toddlers often react
differently to pain than older children who can talk about their pain. A baby
may become fussy, draw his or her legs up toward the belly, or eat poorly.
Older children may be able to point to the area of the
pain and describe how severe it is.
Abdominal pain can occur one
time, or it can occur repeatedly over several months.
Recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) is a condition that
affects children ages 4 to 11.
Check your child's symptoms to decide if and when your child should see a doctor.
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Most of the time, a child's
abdominal pain will get better with home treatment and the child will not need a visit to
Home treatment for abdominal pain often depends on other
symptoms that are present with the pain, such as diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. See the Related Information section of this topic for information on some of these other symptoms.
following, one at a time in the order listed, if your child has mild abdominal
pain without other symptoms:
If the measures above do not work, you may also try
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
Abdominal pain in children can often be
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your child's condition by being prepared to answer
the following questions:
Other Works Consulted
Campo JV, et al. (2004). Recurrent abdominal pain,
anxiety, and depression in primary care. Pediatrics,
January 9, 2013
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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