Symptoms

Abdominal pain in children – causes, treatment

Abdominal pain in children

A child’s stomach is sensitive, which is why abdominal pain is very common in babies and children . Although abdominal pain does not always have a serious cause, abdominal pain can also be a signal of psychological stress or an acute illness.

What characterizes abdominal pain in children?

Depending on the cause, abdominal pain in children manifests itself in different abdominal regions and intensities. These are triggered, for example, by digestive problems , constipation or an intestinal infection . If the symptoms are harmless, parents can relieve their child’s pain with gentle home remedies. If in doubt, you should always consult a doctor, for example if the pain lasts longer than 24 hours.

If the little ones just feel uncomfortable, they can be calmed down with a massage or a lot of affection. A serious illness, on the other hand, is present if the pain occurs suddenly and is severe. Some children respond to abdominal pain with apathetic behavior or listlessness . Others refuse to eat , scream or lie in bed with their legs drawn up.

If fever , vomiting or diarrhea occur or the abdominal flap feels hard, then the way to the doctor is essential. Such symptoms are clear signs of a disease that requires urgent medical attention.

causes

There are many causes of abdominal pain in children. Babies quickly get a bloated stomach if they swallow a lot of air while sucking. And if going to the potty doesn’t go so well, constipation also manifests itself in pain and discomfort. Constipation is when the child only needs to go to the bathroom once a week and has very hard stools.

food intolerance could be another reason for abdominal pain. Since children still have a sensitive stomach, they react quickly to very greasy and sweet foods as well as heavy meals. In school children, however, abdominal pain can also be of a psychological nature, for example if they cannot cope with the pressure of school or have fears and worries.

Very severe pain indicates an acute illness such as appendicitis , infection of the urinary tract or inflammation of the renal pelvis . Not infrequently, colic, poisoning or worms are reasons for abdominal pain in children.

diseases with this symptom

Diagnosis & course of disease

If the child has stomach pains, parents should first localize and analyze the pain. This is much easier when the child is already speaking. Also, only school children can describe whether the pain feels dull or stabbing. As a guide, parents can consult the following guideline: The further away the pain is from the belly button, the more likely it is to have a physical cause.

The situation is different with pain located around the navel. Because then they may be psychologically conditioned or it is a matter of minor symptoms such as a bloated stomach or constipation. Parents can also ask the child to jump on both legs. If this movement causes pain in the abdomen, the peritoneum is irritated.

This is the case, for example, with advanced appendicitis . Parents often see it when their child is in severe pain. Then it distorts the face, for example, or becomes pale. And if there is diarrhoea, vomiting, bloody stools or even fever, the child must be treated immediately by a doctor.

complications

Abdominal pain in children is usually harmless, but it can also be a warning signal from the body. An acute abdomen, for example, is manifested by sudden abdominal pain and can lead to intestinal obstruction , gastric perforation or heart attack . If reflux disease is present, the abdominal pain can be a first sign of Barrett’s ulcer, an inflammatory disease of the esophagus , and in the further course increase the risk of esophageal cancer and other secondary diseases.

Serious conditions such as pyelonephritis , urinary tract infection and even pneumonia can also cause abdominal and intestinal pain. If the symptoms are not treated early, there is a high probability that these diseases will break out and further complications will result. Abdominal pain caused by inflammation of the appendix leads to complications such as inflammation in the abdomen and rupture of the appendix as the disease progresses.

Persistent abdominal pain in children usually occurs as a result of typical infectious diseases such as measles , mumps or scarlet fever . Accordingly, a possible complication is the colonization of the pathogens elsewhere, which can lead to otitis media , sinusitis and other diseases in the further course. The blood can also be poisoned by the bacteria , as is the case, for example, with streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. Normally, however, abdominal pain in children does not result in any serious complications.

When should you go to the doctor?

When children develop abdominal pain, parents are often helpless. You can wait a while, but if in doubt, see a doctor. Pediatricians are responsible for children . If necessary, you can also consult your own family doctor. Parents should go to the doctor or emergency services at any time of the day or night if the child’s symptoms persist.

There are so many causes of childhood abdominal pain that only a specialist can diagnose them. The spectrum ranges from too much air in the stomach to growing pains and mental stress. It is certainly helpful if information can be given about the last meal and the rest of the day.

If the children are still small, they cannot tell anything about their pain. Even slightly older children often find it difficult to do this. If the small abdomen is swollen, an immediate visit to the doctor is necessary. The specialist will listen to the child, feel the abdomen, if necessary take a blood count or prescribe certain food and medication. If in doubt, an internist will be consulted and/or the child will be x-rayed.

Treatment & Therapy

In the case of abdominal pain without a serious cause, parents can soothe their child with a gentle massage . If the child can be calmed down by intensive cuddling and caressing, a dangerous illness can be ruled out. It often helps if the child is put to bed and covered. A pillow under the knee also relieves the stomach. Exercising and drinking enough fluids should also help with constipation.

For some forms of abdominal pain, there are tried and tested home remedies such as a hot water bottle or a cherry pit pillow. Chamomile or fennel tea have a beneficial effect on flatulence. Caraway and aniseed tea relieve the symptoms of indigestion. If the child cannot eat well because of digestive problems, rusks and broth will help against an upset stomach.

Parents can also give the child gentle homeopathic remedies if the cause of the pain is known. However, not every home remedy works equally well for all children. Parents need a lot of patience here. If the pain is severe and the cause is not yet known, the child should stop eating and drinking. Painkillers are also taboo for children.

On the one hand, these can endanger the health of the child, on the other hand, such pain relief could also make diagnosis by the doctor more difficult. After the diagnosis, the pediatrician administers the necessary medication to the child. In the event of an infection, an antibiotic would be an option.

Outlook & Forecast

Abdominal pain in children often has no serious cause and is uncomfortable, but goes away. The metabolism develops over many years and cannot tolerate some things like that of an adult. The result can be temporary abdominal pain in the child.

Since every child develops at a different rate mentally, stress , excitement , anticipation or other strong (positive or negative) feelings can have a psychosomatic effect and result in stomachache. As long as the abdominal pain does not accumulate or become more frequent, associated with severe pain or other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness or fever, it will pass on its own.

However, caution is advised when abdominal pain in children occurs along with these symptoms. First, there is a risk of dehydration . Furthermore, the cause should be clarified, because it can be something harmless or something dangerous like poisoning or a gastrointestinal infection.

Children are quick to swallow something they shouldn’t have eaten, but this can be treated if what is found is discovered in time. If abdominal pain occurs without any other symptoms, but more frequently than in other children of the same age, it should also be examined by a doctor in this case, since it cannot be assumed that the frequency of this abdominal pain in the child will regulate itself.

Prevent

Some types of abdominal pain are recurring in children, for example if they have a tendency to gas or constipation. Parents can prevent such complaints by letting their baby burp more often or by massaging the tummy regularly.

Toddlers should learn to take their time eating and to chew every bite well. And if they exercise a lot in the fresh air during the day and drink enough, children also complain less about stomach ache. In addition, a balanced diet rich in fiber prevents constipation and other digestive disorders.

You can do that yourself

Abdominal pain in children is usually unproblematic and goes away quickly. Various effective and proven home remedies can be used to help yourself. A hot-water bottle or fennel tea often helps to alleviate the symptoms. Teas with anise and cumin also soothe an upset stomach and can be taken in combination with rusks and similar light meals.

A stomach massage or a walk in the fresh air are also effective. Simple gymnastic exercises such as the well-known “cycling” loosen light constipation and effectively alleviate abdominal pain. In addition, being distracted by cuddling, playing games or having stories read to you helps to relieve the pain and help you recover quickly. Eating a healthy, high-fiber diet with non-carbonated drinks and foods that are flatulent, such as cabbage or legumes, also helps.

Stomach pain in small children can often be cured by regular burping when breastfeeding. A circular massage around the navel with caraway oil or similar can also reduce the infant’s discomfort. If these measures do not bring relief, further treatment steps should be discussed with a doctor. Chronic or particularly severe abdominal pain in children should always be clarified by the family doctor or pediatrician .

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.