Kids Having Stomach Pain: When to Worry and How to Help

Stomach ache or pain in the belly is a frequent complaint in children. It is quite often a cause of anxiety in parents. Majority of the times, the cause of stomach pain is a mild illness. However, sometimes pain in abdomen can indicate something serious. Get yourself educated about the signs and symptoms which may require you to seek medical attention immediately.

Symptoms of Stomach Pain in Kids and When to See a Doctor

A caregiver or parent can usually tell when a kid has pain in stomach. Toddlers and infants may cry, have facial expressions that indicate of pain and may curl up. Pain is tummy may be quickly reported by young children. Certain teens may not report their symptoms and you may have to ask them about their feelings. You have to be on a look out for the following symptoms of stomach pain in children:

What Is the Duration of the Pain?

Majority of the cases of stomach pain do not last long. For example, pain due to gas or due to gut/stomach flu does not last for more than 24 hours. Any stomach pain that lasts longer than 24 hours must be checked by a doctor.

What Is the Location of the Pain?

Majority of the simple cases of pain have their location as the center of the abdomen. Pain in other areas of the abdomen raises more concern, especially if it is located in the lower area of the right side of the abdomen as pain is this area is considered to be due to appendicitis until it is proved otherwise.

How Does the Child Appear?

Generally, if the child appears very ill along with in pain, you should seek medical help. Symptoms you should look for along with stomach pain in kids are sweating, pale appearance, sleepiness or listlessness. You should be concerned when the kid does not get distracted from pain with play, or does not eat or drink for several hours.


Vomiting occurs quite frequently with abdominal pain in children. As with stomach pain, majority of simple cases of vomiting resolve quickly. If vomiting persists for longer than 24 hours, it is recommended to visit a physician.

Dehydration can occur due to prolonged vomiting and if the child is unable to keep down liquids. Emergency care should be sought if signs of dehydration including no urine or a dry mouth are present. Moreover, vomiting containing blood or dark material should raise concern and emergency care should be sought in such cases at any age.


Diarrhea or loose stool is a very common symptom present with stomach pain and often indicates that the cause of pain is virus. Diarrhea can last for several days but usually is relieved within 3 days. Dehydration can occur due to diarrhea accompanied by vomiting. Medical care should be sought if there is blood present in stool.


A serious problem is not always indicated by presence of fever. Moreover, normal temperature may be present with the serious causes of stomach pain in kids. But high fever always needs medical intervention.

Urinary Problems

Pain in abdomen associated with pain during urination or frequent urination may indicate infection of the bladder and is a reason to visit a physician.


Rash may occur in association with certain serious cases of abdominal pain. Hence, if abdominal pain is association with appearance of a new rash, you should contact a doctor.

Groin Pain

Boys may describe groin pain as abdominal pain out of embarrassment. The pain is due to testicular torsion which is characterized by twisting of testicle on itself, thereby cutting off the blood supply. Early treatment is required in such cases. Hence, if a kid complains of groin pain or pain in testicles, seek immediate medical care.

What Causes the Stomach Pain?

Some of the not so serious causes of stomach pain in children include:

  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Food intolerance or allergy
  • Acid reflux or heartburn
  • Food poisoning or stomach flu
  • Mononucleosis or strep throat
  • Swallowing of air
  • Colic
  • Abdominal migraine
  • Depression or anxiety

Some of the serious causes of stomach pain in kids include:

  • Gallstones
  • Appendicitis
  • Stomach ulcer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Hernia or other twisting, obstruction or blockage of bowel
  • Cancer or tumor
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Torsion of the ovary
  • Torsion of the testicle
  • Sickle cell disease crisis
  • Intussusception, caused due to part of the intestine being pulled inward into itself

How Is Stomach Pain in Children Treated?

  • Rest: A child suffering from abdominal pain will get benefit from appropriate rest. Lying on the belly may relieve pain due to gas but the best position is that which gives relief to the child.
  • Fluids: Forcing fluids in a child is not always required as dehydration takes time to occur. If a child is suffering from vomiting, he/she may be unable to hold down large quantities of liquids. It is recommended by doctors to give small quantities (1-2 oz.) at a time, typically every 15-20 minutes till the time the kid can keep down more. Do not give the child carbonated, tinted, fatty, caffeinated or excessively sugary or salty liquids such as tea, coffee, dark colas, sports drinks, milk and fruit juices. Try to choose simple soup broth or ginger ale.
  • Solid Foods: Usually the child will tell when it is time to eat solid foods. Start slowly, first give crackers or toast, and then gradually advance to more regular foods if they are able to tolerate them. Apple sauce, banana, cooked rice or plain toasts are all suitable foods that can be introduced after a complete liquid diet.
  • Medicines: Acetaminophen can be given for fever. Don’t give antibiotics unless given by a physician. Treatment is prescribed, depending on the history, symptoms, physical examination, and test results of the individual child.
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