Chronic Abdominal Pain In Children
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
- Children ages 5 to 17 may have chronic abdominal (ab-DOM-i-nal) pain. Chronic abdominal pain occurs in your child's abdomen at least three times in three months. Chronic means long-lasting, or something that happens over and over. The abdomen is the area between the chest and the hips, and contains organs of the digestive system. These organs include the stomach (belly), intestines (bowel), liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and spleen. The digestive system in your child's body breaks down and absorbs what he eats and drinks.
- Your child's chronic abdominal pain may be caused by infection, inflammation (swelling), menstrual cycle (period) in females, poor sleep, or stress. Your child's bowel may not empty right, or may be too relaxed. The cause of your child's abdominal pain may be unknown. Tell your child's caregiver if there are any abdominal problems in your family. Your child may need to have blood, urine or stool tests, x-rays, or other testing done. Treatment is done to help decrease your child's pain and symptoms. Treatment may include medicines, diet changes, or talk therapy. Rarely, children may need surgery to treat their abdominal pain. With treatment, your child's abdominal pain may decrease, happen less, or go away. It is possible that your child may have chronic abdominal pain as an adult, with or without treatment.
- Keep a current list of your child's medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list and the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Give vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
- Give your child's medicine as directed: Call your child's primary healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Ask before you change or stop giving your child his medicines.
- Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age: Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
Ask for more information about where and when to take your child for follow-up visits:
For continuing care, treatments, or home services for your child, ask for information.
Follow the instructions your child's caregiver gives you. If your child had surgery, he should not do activities such as moving and lifting items.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This therapy is done to help your child learn to cope with stressful things. Your child will learn how to decrease or cope with his abdominal pain if it happens when he is scared or worried.
Helping your child feel better:
Encourage your child to keep doing the things he likes to do. If you focus on your child's pain, it may keep getting worse. Stay hopeful that your child will feel better, and keep him doing his usual activities. Have your child talk about things that worry him. Find out if there are stressors at school by talking with your child's teachers. By doing this, you can help your child learn to cope better. When your child has pain, help him by giving him something to do or think about. This may help take his mind off the pain, so he can focus on what he is doing.
You may be asked to write down the foods your child eats. Avoid giving your child greasy, fatty foods. Greasy, fatty foods include fried foods, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and desserts. If your child has trouble with hard BM's, it is helpful to have him eat more fiber. High fiber foods are fruits and vegetables, dark green and orange vegetables, and legumes (dry beans). Do not give your child gassy foods such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Avoid giving him soda and carbonated drinks, as this may also cause your child to have gas. Foods and drinks with sorbitol and fructose should be avoided if your child has diarrhea and bloating. Some food and drinks with sorbitol and fructose are fruit juices, candy, jelly, and sugar-free gum. Drinking enough water, and eating small meals more often, may help decrease your child's abdominal pain. Your child should drink 6 to 8 glasses of water daily.
Placing heat on your child's abdomen when he is having pain may help decrease the pain. Never put a heating pad against your child's bare skin. Always put a towel between the heat and your child's skin.
Keep a diary:
A diary may help your child's caregiver learn what is causing your child's abdominal pain. Write down when the pain starts, what your child is doing, how long it lasts, and how it feels. Take the diary with you when you see your child's caregiver.
CONTACT A CAREGIVER IF:
- Abdominal pain wakes your child up at night.
- Your child's BM's are hard, or painful to pass.
- Your child has a fever.
- Your child has new mouth sores, trouble swallowing, or is losing weight without trying.
- Your child is not drinking liquids, and is not urinating.
- Your child has a new rash.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's care.
SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:
- Your child's abdominal pain becomes worse then normal, and spreads to his back.
- Your child's BM has a large amount of blood in it, or looks like black tar.
- Your child cannot stop vomiting, or vomits blood.
- Your child has diarrhea for 1 to 2 weeks.
- Your child has trouble breathing, and his skin looks pale (very light-colored or white).
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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.