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Abdominal Pain in Children

AMBULATORY CARE:

Abdominal pain

is felt in the abdomen between the bottom of your child's rib cage and his or her groin. Acute pain lasts less than 3 months. Chronic pain lasts longer than 3 months.

Common pain symptoms:

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 or she may have nausea, vomiting, fever, or diarrhea. He or she may cry or scream from the pain. A young child who cannot talk may tug, massage, or pull on his or her abdomen.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child's abdominal pain gets worse.
  • Your child vomits blood, or you see blood in his or her bowel movement.
  • Your child's pain gets worse when he or she 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.

Call your child's doctor if:

  • 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.

Treatment for abdominal pain

depends on the cause:

  • Prescription pain medicine may be needed. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to give this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not give your child other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to a healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your child's provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Do not give aspirin to children younger than 18 years. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he or she 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.
  • Relaxation therapy may be used along with pain medicine.
  • Surgery may be needed, depending on the cause.

Care for your child:

  • Take your child's temperature every 4 hours.
  • Have your child rest until he or she feels better.
  • Ask when your child can eat solid foods. You may be told not to feed your child solid foods for 24 hours.
  • Give your child an oral rehydration solution (ORS). ORS is liquid that contains water, salts, and sugar to help prevent dehydration. Ask what kind of ORS to use and how much to give your child.

Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.