Children often complain of stomach pain. It is one of the common reasons parents take children to their doctor or the hospital emergency department. Most of the time, it is not caused by a serious medical problem. Severe abdominal pain can sometimes be from mild conditions, such as gas or the cramping of stomach flu. On the other hand, mild pain or no pain may be present with life-threatening conditions, such as early appendicitis.

Ways of describing the pain include

• Generalised pain may be present in more than half of the belly. This is more typical for an acute gastritis or indigestion.

• Pain may be localised, or found in only one area of the belly. This type of pain is more likely to be a sign of a problem in one organ, such as the appendix, gallbladder or stomach (ulcers).

• Cramp-like pain is usually not serious, and is more likely to be due to gas and bloating. It is often followed by diarrhoea. More worrisome signs include pain that occurs more often, lasts longer (more than 24 hours), or has a fever with it.

• Colicky pain is pain that comes in waves, usually starts and ends suddenly, and is often severe.

Infants and toddlers cannot describe the pain. Signs of belly pain may be:

• An increase in fussiness

• Drawing their legs up towards the belly

• Poor eating

Causes Many different conditions can cause abdominal pain in a child. The key is to know when you must seek medical care right away. In infants, prolonged unexplained crying (often called ‘colic’) may be caused by abdominal pain. It may end with the passage of gas or stool. Colic is often worse in the evening. Cuddling and rocking the child may bring some relief.

Common but less serious causes of abdominal pain include:

• Food poisoning (salmonella, shigella)

• Constipation

• Food allergies or intolerance

• Heartburn or acid reflux

• Streptococcal throat infection can cause abdominal pain in children

Repeat attacks of stomach pain Some children suffer repeat attack of stomach pain, which can be worrying for parents. Often, no problem can be found. Children may feel stomach pain when they are worried about themselves or the people around them. Think about whether there is anything that is upsetting your children at home, school or with the friends.


When a problem is quite obvious, no tests are needed. If tests are needed, they may include:

• Blood test

• Urine test

• Stool sample

• X ray

• Ultrasound

• Other special tests

Home Care When milder pain begins, ask your child to lie quietly to see if it goes away. Sometimes sips of water or other clear fluids may help. You may also ask your child to try to pass stool. Avoid solid foods for the first few hours. Then try small amount of mild, semi-solid food such as rice or khichdi.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Seek immediate medical help if your child:

• Is a baby younger than three months and has diarrhoea or vomiting

• Is unable to pass stool, especially if the child is also vomiting

• Is vomiting blood or has blood in the stool (especially if the blood is maroon or dark, tarry black)

• Has sudden, sharp abdominal pain

• Has a rigid, hard belly

Call your doctor if your child has:

• Any abdominal discomfort that lasts three days or longer

• A burning sensation during urination

• Fever over 100.4 degrees C