Sudden/Acute Abdominal Pain
This section is not about chronic abdominal pain. If your child has had abdominal pain for weeks or months, contact your doctor during normal business hours.
Most causes of abdominal pain are not an emergency.
Why do children get abdominal pain?
When your child has gas pains s/he will often have sudden onset of sharp pain in one area with no fever, vomiting or diarrhea. Local pressure, positional changes and using the bathroom often help alleviate the discomfort. The pain comes and goes.
Many infants will experience periods of increased crying and fussiness in the late afternoon and evening hours. They act as if they are having abdominal cramping and pain during these episodes.
If your child has a history of withholding stool and passing hard stool then you are probably dealing with constipation. The first couple of times that this happens it falls under acute, and not chronic, abdominal pain. Your child will have the pain of gas (see above) with a possible fullness in his/her belly, and will often be straining to pass stool. Putting Vaseline on the anus to lubricate it and prevent more pain during the passage of stool is helpful. If this is a chronic issue you should contact your child’s Pediatrician during regular business hours.
Abdominal cramping accompanied by fever, vomiting and/or diarrhea. (See vomiting for more information)
Abdominal cramping with vomiting and/or diarrhea. Usually within 8 hours of the offending meal. Often many members of a group or household begin having symptoms at the same time. See vomiting for more information.
Keeping a log of when the pain occurs can help you figure out which foods trigger this in your child so that you can move towards prevention
Characterized by pain in the upper middle abdomen, usually within 2 hours of a meal. Foods more likely to cause this are spicy, greasy and acidic foods (citrus and tomato), and foods/drinks containing caffeine. If your child has food allergies or is lactose intolerant, eating something from this list of items might cause stomach upset and reflux. Antacid tablets give temporary relief. Keeping a log of when the pain occurs can help you figure out which foods trigger this in your child so that you can move towards prevention. There are oral medications that can be used at any age for more severe reflux, so you should call your child’s Pediatrician during normal business hours to schedule a visit.
Typically lower abdominal cramping with no fever, vomiting or diarrhea. Often accompanied by lower back pain. Cyclical (monthly) pattern. Pain can begin days before menstruation and might last for a week. Ibuprofen is helpful (see medication dosing page).
Often after an increase in exercise and physical activities the muscles become sore and tender. Any tensing of the stomach muscles will cause this pain. Ibuprofen can be helpful (see medication dosing page).
If your child has nausea/stomach pain, throat pain, and fever then strep throat is a possibility. Call your doctor during normal business hours to arrange for a throat culture.
Urinary Tract Infection
If your child has increased frequency of urination, fever, abdominal pain, is wetting him/herself (after being potty trained for more than 6 months) then you should call your doctor during regular business hours for a urine test.
When should you worry and call or see a doctor immediately?
- Constant pain, unrelenting (> 3 hours)
- Repeating bouts of severe pain lasting 10-20 minutes each
- Pain that is worsening over time
- Very severe pain – limiting movement and walking
- Refusal to eat or drink
- Persistent vomiting, with severe pain that does not improve after vomiting
- Dark green vomit
- Tender swelling in the groin or testicles
- Blood in the stool
If you feel that something is just not right call your physician or head into an urgent care/emergency room. Remember, no one knows your child like you do!
-Monique Araya, MD, FAAP
The medical information on this Web site is provided for educational purposes only. The information provided in this site, or through linkages to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation or the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider.
If you believe you have a medical emergency you should call 911 or your physician immediately. If you have any questions regarding your health or a medical condition, you should promptly consult your physician.
- Accidental Poisoning
- Bites and Stings
- Burns (and sunburns)
- Childhood Asthma
- Colic and Crying Babies
- Constipation in Children
- Cough & Cold
- Diaper Rash
- Ear Pain
- Head Trauma and Head Injuries
- Kids and Allergies
- Medication Dosages
- Nosebleeds in Children
- Pink Eye and Styes
- Scrapes, Cuts and Stitches
- Sudden/Acute Abdominal Pain
- Treating a Common Cold Cough
- Vomiting and Nausea