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Abdominal Pain In Children

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is abdominal pain in children?

Abdominal pain may be felt between the bottom of your child's rib cage and his groin. Pain may be acute or chronic. Acute pain usually lasts less than 3 months. Chronic pain lasts longer than 3 months.

What causes abdominal pain in children?

Overeating, gas pains, or food poisoning may cause abdominal pain. Other causes may be constipation or diarrhea. Your child may have abdominal pain because of an injury or other serious health problem, such as appendicitis. The cause of your child's abdominal pain may not be known.

What are the signs and symptoms of abdominal pain in children?

Your child's pain may be sharp or dull. The pain may stay in the same place or move around. Your child may have the pain all the time, or it may come and go. He may have nausea, vomiting, fever, or diarrhea. He may cry or scream from the pain.

How is the cause of abdominal pain in children diagnosed?

Blood, urine, or bowel movement tests may be done. Your child may have x-rays of his abdomen. Your child's healthcare provider will ask you questions about your child and check his abdomen. He will want you or your child to talk about the pain. This helps him learn what may be causing the pain and how best to treat it. He will want you or your child to answer the following questions:

  • Where does it hurt? Does the pain move from one area to another?

  • How would you rate the pain on a scale? On zero to 10 scale, zero is no pain, and 10 is the worst pain your child ever had. Your child may be shown a smiley face scale. A smiling face is no pain, and a sad face with tears is very bad pain. Some healthcare providers may suggest other ways to help your child tell you how much he hurts.

  • When did the pain start? Did it begin quickly or slowly? Is the pain steady, or does it come and go? Does the pain come before, during, or after meals?

  • How often does the pain bother you, and how long does it last?

  • Does the pain affect the things you do? Can you still play or go to school? Do certain activities cause the pain to start or get worse like coughing or touching the area?

  • Does the pain wake you up?

  • Does anything ease the pain, such as changing positions, resting, medicines, or changing what you eat?

How is abdominal pain in children treated?

Medicine may be needed to decrease or take away your child's pain. Acute pain can usually be controlled or stopped with pain medicine. Healthcare providers may use medicines along with other treatments, such as relaxation therapy, to help your child's pain. Surgery may be needed, depending on the cause.

How will I know if my baby has abdominal pain?

Babies and very young children have trouble talking and saying what they feel. It may be hard to know if when he is in pain. Your baby may do the following when he has pain:

  • Bite or squeeze his lips tightly

  • Cry with a higher pitch, whimper, or groan

  • Move around a lot to lie in a way that will not hurt or move his arms around

  • Frown or squeeze his eyes shut tightly

  • Pull his knees up to his chest

  • Get upset when touched

  • Shudder (mild shake)

  • Sleep more or less than usual

  • Touch, rub, or massage his abdomen

How will I know if my young child has abdominal pain?

Your toddler, preschooler, or young child may do the following when he has pain:

  • Hold his arms, legs, or body stiffly

  • Cry, whimper, or groan

  • Act restless

  • Guard or protect the painful area from touching anything

  • Kick when someone comes near

  • Lose control of bowel and bladder after he has been potty-trained

  • Seem withdrawn and does not do normal activities, such as play

  • Touch, tug, rub, or massage his abdomen

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child's abdominal pain gets worse.

  • Your child vomits blood, or you see blood in your child's bowel movement.

  • Your child's pain gets worse when he moves or walks.

  • Your child has vomiting that does not stop.

  • Your male child's pain moves into his genital area.

  • Your child's abdomen becomes swollen or very tender to the touch.

  • Your child has trouble urinating.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child's abdominal pain does not get better after a few hours.

  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child cannot stop vomiting.

  • You have questions about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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