If your child is experiencing abdominal discomfort, our paediatric gastroenterologists can help to identify the root cause, and treat the symptoms.

Abdominal pain in children can be very varied and can come and go in a matter of hours. It is not always the result of a serious underlying problem but is a very common symptom in children of all ages. Most causes of abdominal pain in children are not serious, however, pain that interferes with daily life, eating and particularly sleeping should be taken seriously.

Abdominal pain in children

Abdominal pain felt in one area of the stomach is known as localised pain, while generalised pain refers to a more widespread pain which occurs in at least half of the abdomen. This pain can be isolated, or recur several times over the course of weeks or months.

What causes abdominal pain in children?

There are a wide variety of causes of abdominal pain in children. It can be the result of a urinary tract infection, injury from minor trauma, upset stomach, ear infection, constipation or diarrhoea.

There are also a number of more serious causes – such as lead poisoning or appendicitis- as well as intestinal infection or inflammation.

Girls who begin to have their periods can also experience abdominal pain, which varies in its intensity from month to month.

Many children also develop abdominal pain in response to stress or anxiety. Such symptoms can often be just as severe as those that result from physical causes, but of course, need a very different treatment approach. Understanding that various symptoms – such as dizziness, headache, nausea, abdominal pain and even diarrhoea – can have a psychological origin, is often the first important step on the road to complete recovery.

When to see your paediatrician

Your decision on whether to take your child to see a paediatrician should be based on how much the symptoms affect your child’s daily life.

In general, a specialist ‘gastro’ paediatrician should be consulted if pain is focused in one area of the stomach, a child’s stools are black or bloody, a child has persistent vomiting / loose stools, or a child experiences pain when he or she opens their bowels. In the case of a light stomach upset or ache, a visit to a GP or general paediatrician is more appropriate. From there, your GP can advise as to whether you should consult a paediatric specialist.

Examination and treatment

A ‘gastro’ paediatrician might undertake a number of examinations, including initial height and weight measurement, before recommended further courses of action, including blood or breath tests, prescribing medicine, collecting a stool sample for testing, or in some cases an endoscopy, which uses a flexible camera to look inside the stomach and intestine.

All endoscopies in children are carried out under general anaesthesia so that your child would not be aware of the procedure being undertaken, most procedures are done as day-cases, making an overnight stay unnecessary. Only children under 6 years of age may need admission to prepare the bowel for colonoscopy.

Have any questions about abdominal pain, or wish to make an enquiry? Contact us to find out how we can help you.

We accept referrals from GPs, referrals from other paediatricians for specialist opinions; and other paediatric/adult gastroenterologists for second opinions. You can also refer your child or family directly for general health checks or if you have any particular concerns.