Close

We use cookies to give you the best possible online experience. If you continue, we'll assume you are happy for your web browser to receive all cookies from our website. See our cookie policy for more information on cookies and how to manage them.

Abdominal Pain in Children

For children 12 and over, see chart 22

Every child suffers from abdominal pain at some time, and some children have recurrent episodes. Usually the cause is minor, and the pain subsides in a few hours without treatment. In rare cases, abdominal pain is a symptom of a serious disorder that requires prompt medical attention.

  • Has your child had a recent abdominal injury?

    • Recent injury
      • Possible cause An injury to an abdominal organ is possible.

        Medical help URGENT! Phone your doctor immediately!

    • No injury

      Does your child have severe pain in either of the following places?

      • Groin
        • Possible cause A strangulated inguinal hernia (see Hernias) or torsion of the testis is possible.

          Medical help EMERGENCY! Dial 999/112 and ask for an ambulance. Do not allow your child to eat or drink.

      • Scrotum
        • Possible cause A strangulated inguinal hernia (see Hernias) or torsion of the testis is possible.

          Medical help EMERGENCY! Dial 999/112 and ask for an ambulance. Do not allow your child to eat or drink.

      • Neither

        Does your child have any of the following symptoms?

        • Continuous pain for more than 4 hours
          • Possible cause Continuous abdominal pain for this length of time could be an indication of a serious abdominal condition, such as appendicitis.

            Medical help URGENT! Phone your doctor immediately!

        • Blood in the faeces
          • Possible cause Abdominal pain accompanied by blood in the faeces could indicate intussusception in a young child. In older children, the cause of these symptoms may be an intestinal infection such as food poisoning.

            Medical help EMERGENCY! Dial 999/112 and ask for an ambulance. Do not allow your child to eat or drink.

        • Greenish-yellow vomit
          • Possible cause An intestinal obstruction is possible.

            Medical help EMERGENCY! Dial 999/112 and ask for an ambulance. Do not allow your child to eat or drink.

        • None of the above

          Have your child’s bowel movements (stools) been abnormal?

          • Hard and infrequent
            • Possible cause Constipation can cause abdominal pain (see Constipation in children)

              Medical help See your doctor within 24 hours.

          • Normal

            Has pain been relieved by either of the following?

            • Vomiting
              • Possible cause Your child could have a digestive tract infection (see Gastroenteritis).

                Medical help URGENT! Phone your doctor immediately if your child is under 6 months old. For older children, follow the advice on preventing dehydration and consult your doctor if your child is no better in 24 hours or if other symptoms develop.

            • Passing wind or faeces
              • Possible cause Your child could have a digestive tract infection (see Gastroenteritis).

                Medical help URGENT! Phone your doctor immediately if your child is under 6 months old. For older children, follow the advice on preventing dehydration and consult your doctor if your child is no better in 24 hours or if other symptoms develop.

            • Neither

              Does your child have any of the following symptoms?

              • Sore throat
                • Possible cause In young children these symptoms may be associated with an upper respiratory tract infection, such as a common cold.

                  Self-help Encourage your child to drink and give a painkiller at the dose recommended for his or her age. If the pain is no better in 24 hours or worsens, phone your doctor.

              • Cough
                • Possible cause In young children these symptoms may be associated with an upper respiratory tract infection, such as a common cold.

                  Self-help Encourage your child to drink and give a painkiller at the dose recommended for his or her age. If the pain is no better in 24 hours or worsens, phone your doctor.

              • Runny nose
                • Possible cause In young children these symptoms may be associated with an upper respiratory tract infection, such as a common cold.

                  Self-help Encourage your child to drink and give a painkiller at the dose recommended for his or her age. If the pain is no better in 24 hours or worsens, phone your doctor.

              • None of the above

                Does your child have any of the following symptoms?

                • Pain on urination
                • Temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or above
                • Renewed bedwetting or daytime “accidents”
                • None of the above

                  Has your child suffered from similar bouts of abdominal pain over the past few weeks?

                  • Previous abdominal pain
                    • Possible cause Recurrent abdominal pain in children can sometimes be related to anxiety.

                      Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

                  • No previous pain
                    • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your child’s abdominal pain from this chart, see your doctor within 24 hours.

          • Diarrhoea
            • Possible cause Your child could have a digestive tract infection (see Gastroenteritis).

              Medical help URGENT! Phone your doctor immediately if your child is under 6 months old. For older children, follow the advice on preventing dehydration and consult your doctor if your child is no better in 24 hours or if other symptoms develop.

Dial 999/112 and ask for an ambulance if your child’s abdominal pain has been continuous for more than 4 hours and is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Greenish-yellow vomit.
  • Pain in the groin or scrotum.
  • Blood in the faeces.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

Back to top

Search the
Medical Encyclopedia

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.