What is abdominal pain?
Abdominal pain is fairly common in infants and children, but sometimes it can be more serious and requires medical attention
Abdominal pain in children and infants
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What causes abdominal pain?
Abdominal pain in children is most commonly caused by gastroenteritis, an infection of the stomach which can also cause diarrhoea and vomiting. It is also often caused by acute appendicitis, an inflammation of the appendix.
Abdominal pain can be caused by a number of different things, dependant on the child’s age. A child less than a year old will often experience abdominal pain due to a blocked inguinal hernia, whereas children aged between 6 and 24 months are likely to experience abdominal pain caused by intussusception. For children of this age, intussusception is identified by the intestine folding into another section of the intestine, causing a blockage.
Symptoms of appendicitis
In older children, usually after the age of six or seven, appendicitis presents in a similar way to adult acute appendicitis. To distinguish appendicitis from other types of abdominal pain, it is very important to note the onset of the pain in relation to other symptoms. This is because abdominal pain in the paraumbilical area is often the first symptom of acute appendicitis. Additionally, the pain usually migrates in 24 to 48 hours to the right-hand side of the abdomen. Within this timeframe, the child develops other symptoms such as a low-grade fever, nausea, or vomiting, and sometimes loose stools.
In younger children below the age of 6, the diagnosis of acute appendicitis is more challenging. This is caused by the fact that the time from the onset of the symptoms to having complicated appendicitis, or even peritonitis, can be really short. Therefore, if you have a child below the age of 6 with abdominal pain that is not moving a lot and has a fever, these are red flags to bring the child to see a doctor as soon as possible to make sure that the possible diagnosis of acute appendicitis can be made in a quick and timely manner.
Treatment options for abdominal pain
The treatment which is chosen for your child's abdominal pain will depend entirely on the cause of the pain. Treatments can include; painkillers; fluids, in order to rest the bowel and address fluid loss; medicine to stop vomiting; and fasting, with he or she being ordered to stop eating or drinking, for cases in which the cause of the abdominal pain is not yet understood.
There are many home remedies for your child which have proven to be effective in easing abdominal pain, and may recommended by a doctor. These include; drinking plenty of water; taking a hot bath; putting a hot water bottle next to the abdomen; offering bland foods to your child, such as crackers, banana, or toast, while they have an upset stomach; mild painkillers like paracetamol, and getting plenty of rest. Your child may also be prescribed antacids available over the counter, especially in the case of suspected gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Written by: Stefano Giuliani
Written on: 05.09.18
Abdominal pain in children and infants
Tummy aches are fairly common in children and infants, but sometimes abdominal pain can be more serious and requires medical attention. Mr Stefano Giuliani, a leading paediatric surgeon, explains some common causes of abdominal pain in children and infants and how to recognise it.
"My 11-year-old daughter had been suffering with abdominal pain for several months and had numerous gastro tests. In the end I insisted on seeing a surgeon and after calling numerous consultant's secretary I was so relieved to speak to Mr Giuliani's secretary, I knew instantly I wanted my daughter to see him. We saw him 2 days later on a Friday evening. He told us we can have as much time with him as we needed. He had already gone through the notes I had emailed so we didn't have to go over the history. He was lovely with my daughter, listened and talked to her. He recommended key hole surgery which was my gut feeling right from the start. He explained the procedure to her, what he was looking for and what she could expect after the surgery. On the Monday morning his secretary arranged the procedure for the following day. Prior to the surgery Mr Giuliani went over the procedure, what he was looking for and post op care. He went out of his way to ensure my daughter understood what was going to happen to her. Straight after the surgery Mr Giuliani explained the findings and what he had done during the surgery. In my daughter's words "he is amazing, he's cured me". Mr Giuliani is very approachable, open minded and listened to my daughter. He and his secretary both went out of their way to arrange my daughter's surgery so quickly. My only regret is that we hadn't seen him sooner!"
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