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Abdominal Pain with Unknown Cause, Female (Child)

Abdominal (stomach) pain is common in children. But children often don't complain of pain because they don't have the words to describe what is wrong and they have trouble pinpointing where it hurts. Often, they just feel bad, or do not want to eat. This can make abdominal pain hard to diagnose in young children. Also, abdominal symptoms are associated with many problems. Most of the time, the cause of abdominal pain in children is not serious and will go away.

Over the next few days, abdominal pain may come and go or be continuous. It may be hard to decide whether a child has pain or is feeling something else. Abdominal pain may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, or fever. Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether children feel nauseous because they just feel bad and don't associate that feeling with nausea. A child may constantly touch his or her stomach or indicate pain when the stomach is touched.

Abdominal pain may continue even when being treated correctly. Sometimes the cause can become clearer over the next few days and may require further or different treatment. Additional tests or medicines may be needed.

Home care

Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine for pain and symptoms of infection. Follow the instructions for giving these medicines to your child.

General care

  • Comfort your child as needed.

  • Try to find positions that ease your child’s discomfort. A small pillow placed on the abdomen may help provide pain relief.

  • Distraction may also help. Some children are soothed by listening to music or having someone read to them.

  • Offer emotional support to your child. Pain can trigger some intense, negative emotions, including anger.

  • Relaxation techniques and behavioral therapy can be helpful if the pain becomes chronic.

  • Lying down with a warm wash cloth on the stomach may help improve symptoms.

  • Have your child sit on the toilet regularly.

  • Don't give medicine for abdominal pain or camps unless instructed by your healthcare provider.

Diet

  • Don't force your child to eat, especially if she is having pain, vomiting or diarrhea.

  • Water is important to prevent dehydration. Soup, popsicles, or oral rehydration solution may help. Give liquids in small amounts. Don't let your child guzzle it down.

  • Don't give your child fatty, greasy, spicy, or fried foods.

  • Don't give your child high-fiber foods that are high in residue during the pain episodes.

  • Don't give your child dairy products if she has diarrhea.

  • Don't let your child eat large amounts of food at a time, even if she is hungry. Wait a few minutes between bites and offer more if tolerated.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider, or as advised. If tests or studies were done, they will be reviewed by a doctor. You will be notified of any new findings that may affect your child’s care.

Special notes to parents

Keep a record of symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or fever. This may help the doctor make a diagnosis.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Difficulty arousing

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Seizure

When to seek medical advice

 

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever (see Children and fever, below)

  • Your baby is fussy or cries and cannot be soothed

  • Continuing symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, bleeding, painful or bloody urination, nausea and vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea

  • Abdominal swelling

  • Vaginal discharge or bleeding that is unrelated to menstruation

  • Your child can't keep down water or clear liquids. She is at risk of dehydration and needs medical help right away.

  • Missed periods. Don't be surprised if the doctor does a pregnancy test on any girl above the age of menstruation. This is simply part of the evaluation.

  • Severe pain lasting more than 1 hour

  • Constant pain lasting more than 2 hours

  • Crampy, intermittent pain lasting more than 24 hours

  • Pain in the lower right side of the abdomen

  • Your child starts acting very sick

Fever and children

Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.

For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.

Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.

Infant under 3 months old:

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead (temporal artery) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child age 3 to 36 months:

  • Rectal, forehead (temporal artery), or ear temperature of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child of any age:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old. Or a fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older.

Online Medical Reviewer: Adler, Liora, C., MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Watson, L. Renee, MSN, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2018
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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