Abdominal pain in children and adolescents is quite common, stemming from a wide range of causes. The top cause of abdominal pain in children is gastroenteritis or the stomach flu, and some cases may require emergency care.
Understanding the difference between the causes of abdominal pain in children is crucial to identifying the source of the problem and providing proper care. Some causes of abdominal pain are urgent, and a quick response could mean the difference between life and death.
Surgical and Medical Causes
Medical reasons for abdominal pain may be a bit difficult to diagnose because there are so many possibilities. Knowing the health background of your child can be beneficial to pinpoint a cause.
Another common cause of pain in the abdomen is appendicitis. Appendicitis begins with pain around the belly button and eventually spreads to the right side. Always take pain to the right side of the abdomen seriously and consult a medical professional.
Other symptoms of appendicitis are:
- Loss of appetite
Treatment for appendicitis includes antibiotics and surgery to remove the appendix if necessary. If untreated, the appendix may rupture, causing further complications.
As for other medical causes, your doctor can provide proper instructions and medication when necessary.
Viruses and bacterial infections can cause pain in the abdomens of children. The most common infection is the stomach flu. Symptoms of the stomach flu include nausea, cramps, and diarrhea. Sometimes these symptoms are accompanied by muscle pain, a headache, or low fever.
Treating an infection depends on whether it is viral or bacterial. Viral infections don’t respond to antibiotics and typically must resolve on their own, but luckily, symptoms shouldn’t last long.
Bacterial infections commonly last longer than viral infections. Antibiotics are recommended to speed the recovery process and prevent further complications.
Food poisoning occurs when a child eats contaminated food, causing stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping. Food poisoning often resolves on its own around 24 to 48 hours after symptoms show. If symptoms continue or worsen, contact a doctor.
Overeating can be another cause of abdominal pain in children and teens. This can cause cramping, gas, bloating, and nausea. Parents should teach children healthy eating habits in order to avoid overeating or causing pain.
Food allergies such as gluten intolerance can cause stomach pain, bloating, and sometimes nausea. A doctor can test your child for allergies and intolerances and provide proper treatment.
When to See a Doctor
If abdominal pain continues for more than 24 hours or is accompanied by multiple other issues, have your child checked by a medical professional as soon as possible.
Pain in the bottom-right side of the abdomen should be considered appendicitis until a doctor says otherwise. Seek immediate care if your child has pain in this area.
If abdominal pain is preventing a child from eating, drinking, or playing for an extended period of time, there is likely a problem. The child should be examined to find the cause of the pain and to treat them, as needed.
Sometimes vomiting happens without a cause for concern. Parents should consult a doctor if vomiting persists for over 24 hours or contains blood or unusual color/texture.
Other reasons to seek medical attention include symptoms such as a fever, rash, or excessive sweating.
Monitor your child if they are experiencing abdominal pain. Provide medication as needed and enforce rest and healthy habits. And always contact a medical provider if you have questions or concerns.