Abdominal pain is very common in children and can have many different causes. Pain in the abdomen may be acute and severe, or mild and chronic.

Most causes of abdominal pain in children are not serious. However, abdominal pain can sometimes be a sign of a more concerning underlying condition that requires treatment.

This summary provides an overview of abdominal pain in children, including the symptoms, common causes, and what to do next to manage the condition.

If your child has abdominal pain, you can book an appointment to see me in clinic.

Overview of abdominal pain in children

Abdominal pain refers to pain or discomfort that occurs between the bottom of the rib cage and the pelvis.

It is a common complaint in children. Between 10% – 20% of school-aged children complain of recurrent abdominal pain.

Determining the cause of abdominal pain involves taking a full medical history, conducting a physical exam, and may involve diagnostic tests. Treatment depends on the cause but may include medication, dietary changes, probiotics, physical therapy, or rarely, surgery. Lifestyle changes like avoiding trigger foods, practicing stress management, and exercise can also help relieve symptoms.

Testimonials

Patient’s parent via Doctify, for stomach/abdominal pain

“Dr Mathur is very kind and patient. He solved our problem well and provided us with information that we may need to use in the future.”

Symptoms

The main symptom of abdominal pain in children is pain or discomfort that occurs in the stomach area. Associated symptoms may include:

  • Bloating or cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Fever
  • Change in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in stool

Causes

There are many possible causes of abdominal pain in children, including:

  • Viral infections like stomach ‘flu
  • Food poisoning
  • Gas and bloating
  • Constipation
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Kidney stones
  • Appendicitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Intussusception (when part of the intestine folds into itself)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Abdominal migraines
  • Menstrual cramps

Diagnosis

To diagnose the cause of abdominal pain, I will ask about symptoms and take a medical history. I will usually conduct a physical exam, which may include applying gentle pressure on the abdomen to see if that increases pain. I may send your child for additional diagnostic tests, such as:

  • Blood tests
  • Stool sample analysis
  • Urine tests
  • Abdominal X-ray
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • CT scan of the abdomen

Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause of the abdominal pain, but may include:

  • Medications like pain relievers, antacids, laxatives, or antibiotics
  • Dietary changes like avoiding foods that trigger symptoms
  • Probiotic supplements
  • Surgery for conditions like appendicitis

Lifestyle Changes and Coping Strategies

Lifestyle adjustments that can help manage abdominal pain in children include:

  • Identifying and avoiding trigger foods
  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • Practicing stress management and relaxation techniques
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Maintaining a bowel movement routine
  • Getting enough rest and sleep

Support Resources

There are many resources available to help parents manage abdominal pain in their child:

  • Talk to a paediatrician
  • Join an online support group
  • Check out educational resources from children’s hospitals
  • Enrol your child in counselling or therapy
  • Reach out to your child’s school for accommodations

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common cause of abdominal pain in children?

Viral infections like stomach viruses are the most common cause. Food poisoning and constipation are also very common. If no cause is found, sometimes, it’s called ‘Functional Abdominal pain’, which has a very complicated aetiology & management..

When should I take my child to see a doctor for abdominal pain?

See a doctor if the pain is severe, persistent, or accompanied by fever, vomiting, or other concerning symptoms. Also see a doctor if the pain disrupts sleep or daily activities.

Can anxiety cause abdominal pain in children?

Yes. Stress and anxiety can manifest as abdominal pain in children. Relaxation techniques may help manage stress-related abdominal pain.

Can certain foods trigger abdominal pain?

Yes. Dairy, greasy foods, caffeine, carbonated drinks, and artificial sweeteners are common food triggers. Identifying and avoiding trigger foods can help reduce symptoms.

Is recurrent abdominal pain normal in children?

It’s very common. About 10-20% of school children experience recurrent abdominal pain each week. It’s rarely caused by anything serious.

Summary

Abdominal pain is very common in children and fortunately is not usually caused by anything serious.

Identifying the cause through medical evaluation and making appropriate lifestyle changes can help manage recurring abdominal pain.

I work closely with both the patent and child to determine if any treatment is needed, and provide treatment and support for children with chronic abdominal pain.