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Abdominal Pain in Children

Abdominal Pain in Children Facts

  • Abdominal pain is one of the most common reasons for a parent to bring his or her child to medical attention.
  • Evaluation of a "tummy ache" can challenge both parents and the physician.
  • Possible causes for a child's abdominal pain range from trivial to life-threatening, with little difference in the child's complaints.
  • Fortunately, abdominal pain in a child usually improves quickly.
  • Each parent or caregiver faces the difficulty deciding whether a complaint needs emergency care or not.

Causes of Abdominal Pain in Children

  • Infections: Viruses or bacteria can cause abdominal pain, typically from stomach flu or gut flu (called gastroenteritis). Viral infections tend to go away quickly, while bacterial infections may need an antibiotic to get better.
  • Food-related: Food poisoning (which has symptoms like those of stomach/gut flu), food allergies, eating excessive food, or gas production – any of these can cause bloating and temporary discomfort. Usually the onset is rapid after eating.
  • Poisoning: This can range from simple problems (such as eating soap) to more serious issues like swallowing iron pills, magnets, coins, botulism from spoiled food, or an overdose of medications (such as acetaminophen poisoning [Tylenol]).
  • Surgical problems: These include appendicitis or blockage of the bowels.
  • Medical causes: Things outside the abdomen can cause abdominal pain. For example, a child can have abdominal pain from complications of diabetes or from a black widow spider bite.
Last Reviewed 11/20/2017

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