Belly pain

Belly pain (also called “abdominal pain”) in children is defined as discomfort or pain anywhere between the chest and pelvis. There are many potential causes but most of time the pain resolves on its own after a short time. Causes include hunger, constipation, infection, stress, heart burn, and many other illnesses. You should seek care for your child’s belly pain if:

  • the pain is severe
  • the pain prevents your child from drinking or eating anything, and they are getting dehydrated as a result
  • there is also vomiting lasting more than 12 hours or diarrhea for more than 2 days
  • there is blood in the stool
  • there is pain with peeing
  • the child is less than 3 months
  • the pain is a result of trauma to the belly
  • the pain is not severe but lasts more than a week (even if it comes and goes)
  • any other symptoms that are concerning to you

Common questions

belly pain

What are common causes of belly pain in children?

Common causes of belly pain in children include constipation, infections (like gastroenteritis), stress, heartburn, food intolerances, and hunger. Sometimes, abdominal pain can be a symptom of more serious conditions like appendicitis, urinary tract infections, or inflammatory bowel disease.

When should I seek medical attention for my child's belly pain?

Seek medical care if the pain is severe, prevents your child from eating or drinking (leading to dehydration), is accompanied by persistent vomiting (more than 12 hours) or diarrhea (more than 2 days), includes blood in the stool, is associated with pain during urination, or if the child is less than 3 months old. Also, seek care if the pain results from trauma to the belly or if it's not severe but lasts more than a week.

How can I help relieve my child's mild abdominal pain at home?

For mild abdominal pain, ensure your child rests and drinks plenty of fluids. A warm compress can help soothe some types of pain. Encourage your child to eat light meals and avoid any known food irritants. If the pain is due to constipation, increasing fiber intake may help.

Can stress cause belly pain in children?

Yes, stress can cause abdominal pain in children. Stress-related abdominal pain is often called "functional abdominal pain" and can be related to anxiety, emotional distress, or other psychological factors.

Are there any red flags for serious conditions related to abdominal pain in children?

Red flags include severe pain, especially if localized to the lower right abdomen (which could indicate appendicitis), high fever, significant vomiting or diarrhea, blood in the stool or urine, unexplained weight loss, or pain that wakes the child from sleep. In such cases, immediate medical evaluation is necessary.

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