Acute abdominal pain in children

Blockage or inflammation

Abdominal pain comes in many shapes and sizes. Constant nagging pain, pain that is intense and comes in attacks, colic pain or stabbing stomach pain: it is not pleasant. Your child often does not know what to do with it. What could it be?

If your child has a stomach ache and you are desperate to call your doctor, it is useful to know what your child's temperature is. In case of abdominal pain, the doctor always asks whether your child has a fever. With this question, he can rule out a number of causes: appendicitis and a kidney infection are always accompanied by a fever.


    In this list, a cause or illness is linked to the type of abdominal pain and the complaints that your child may have:

  • Kidney pelvic infection
    Your child has pain in his lower abdomen and/or back. Sometimes a fever is present. There is sometimes pain when urinating. Urinalysis shows whether your child indeed has an infection.
  • Appendicitis
  • Your child has constant pain and sometimes colic pain (cramps). Nausea is common, sometimes children vomit. Your child has a moderate temperature rise. In young children, the pain is around the navel or the location is difficult to determine. Older children often have problems with the right lower abdomen. There is also pain during transport or with shaking movements. That is why children with appendicitis prefer to lie still.
  • Intestinal infections with diarrhea and vomiting or stomach flu
  • . Your child has abdominal pain, is nauseous, has to vomit and later has diarrhea. Sometimes there is only abdominal pain in the beginning and the other symptoms only follow later.
  • Intussusception or intussusception
  • Your child has severe cramps and attacks of pain. Between the attacks, your child has few or no complaints. Babies pull up their legs. Children look pale and have an urge to move during a seizure. There is no fever present.
  • Constipation
  • Your child has severe pain for a while. This will subside after some time. It may come back later. There is no fever or temperature rise. There are no signs of peritoneal irritation, such as occurs with appendicitis, for example
  • .


When you think of abdominal pain, you do not immediately think of one specific cause. The doctor carefully inquires about the exact complaints and searches for more information. For example, does your child only have abdominal pain after eating or after urinating? In most cases it becomes clear what the cause is through questions and through physical examination.

  • With an irritated abdomen, such as with appendicitis, a blood test and an ultrasound examination of the abdomen is done.
  • Blood tests are of no use in the case of an intussusception. An ultrasound will show whether there is an intussusception.
  • The doctor often deduces from the parents' story that the child is constipated (in that case, defecation often does not work).
  • Young children are not yet able to express how they feel. If they are sick, groggy or have a fever, urinalysis is often done.


If it's not a severe stomach pain, you can put something warm on your child's stomach. Think of a bean bag or a hot water bottle. Sometimes the abdominal pain goes away on its own after children have been to the toilet.

The treatment of acute abdominal pain depends on the cause. If your child doesn't respond to regular pain medication, it could be an indication of a more serious condition.
If your child has had abdominal pain for a long time and the abdominal pain occurs regularly, you can rule out acute causes. Often you can't quite say what the cause is. The possibility of constipation is always present: laxatives can then help.


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