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icoAbdominal pain in children – what are the reasons and what are the existing solutions?

“Mommy, Daddy, my tummy hurts!” – Does it sound familiar?

 Abdominal pain is one of the most common complaints which parents take to pediatricians. In fact, up to 38% of children will experience abdominal pain every week. The good news is that in most cases, abdominal pain goes away by itself, but for some children, it can become a frustrating problem which disrupts their day to day lives at school, day-care, with friends and elsewhere. Apart from the children who are in pain, we as parents find ourselves to be helpless.

Mild abdominal pain in children

Almost every child will experience mild abdominal pain at one time or another. For most, the pain is as a result of a mild infection of the digestive tract that can cause both vomiting and diarrhea. In most cases, the problem goes away by itself, and the accepted treatment is drinking plenty and maintaining good hygiene. Further, the addition of a probiotic to the diet can help in these cases. Taking a probiotic assists in returning the equilibrium of the digestive system, thereby shortening both the duration and intensity of diarrhea.

How is functional abdominal pain defined?

The significance of functional pain is pain that is more chronic in nature that is not caused by a physical or physiological change to a specific tissue or organ. The pain is usually located around the belly button, but it is not always possible to determine the precise position of the abdominal pain. It is likely to come on suddenly or increase slowly. It may be permanent or change in its severity.

Functional abdominal pain mainly impacts children over the age of 3, peaking in children between the ages of 5 and 7, when the children are beginning to study, with an additional peak between ages 8 and 12.  In school-age children, the estimate is that 10 to 20% suffer from functional pain disturbances, with functional abdominal pain being more common among girls.

Factors causing abdominal pain in children

Mild abdominal pain, as we have said, can be caused by food consumed, constipation or gas. The type of pain and its location can assist in diagnosing the problem which causes it.

Recurring abdominal pain (functional) is occasionally accompanied by additional symptoms that are not necessarily connected with the digestive tract, such as headaches which for the most part are unconnected to the type of food or manner of eating. They can cause the child to be absent from their educational establishment and other tasks, but usually it will pass independently, without the need for a medicinal intervention. That said, is also true that recurring abdominal pain can be caused by medical issues which are important to be investigated.

Common reasons for abdominal pain among children:

  • Intolerance to lactose or other sugars in the diet
  • Chronic constipation
  • Over-proliferation of intestinal bacteria
  • Parasites and intestinal worms
  • Stomach infection by the Helicobacter pylori bacterium
  • Frequent withholding from going to the toilet
  • Additional reasons

Red flag – when should you worry?

Acute and severe pain that does not pass signifies a problem that requires going to a doctor, where continued medical treatment will be decided upon.

Signs that need to be paid attention to:

  • Abdominal pain that does not go away even after taking the designated analgesics.
  • Abdominal pain that continues for over three days.
  • A condition where there is bloody or mucus-containing diarrhea.
  • In the event that the child vomits following every attempt to drink, or if signs of dehydration appear.
  • The appearance of additional symptoms including night sweats and weight loss.
  • Extreme right-sided abdominal pain. This is called “McBurney’s Point” close to the position of the appendix.
  • The appearance of a fever along with the abdominal pain.

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