Top 10 causes of abdominal pain in children

Tummy pain or abdominal pain is one of the most common medical complaints encountered by parents world-wide. The causes of abdominal pain in children are many, but a parent needs to be observant to see whether the child needs prompt medical attention or is it a mild problem which can be managed at home. Below are some of the common reasons for ‘stomach pain’ in children.

Top 10 causes of abdominal pain in children

The food connection: Eating excessive quantities of junk food like chips and cake or food allergies (nut, wheat and milk allergies are common in children) are the most common reason for abdominal pain.

Infections: Viruses like rotavirus and bacterial infections like typhoid are some of the examples of infection leading to stomach ache. It may be accompanied by fever, vomiting and loose motions.

Invagination of intestines: Intussusception is a kind of intestinal obstruction frequently seen in children. A part of the intestine goes inside another intestine; this is called `telescoping’. This is dangerous because it cuts off the blood supply to the obstructed part of the intestine and food cannot pass through. The child complains of severe pain which comes and goes but lasts for a longer duration as time goes by. It requires immediate surgery as it is life-threatening.

Worms in stomach: Worm infestation like ascariasis or A. duodenale (roundworm and hookworm respectively) are two examples of worms in the gut causing abdominal pain which may last for weeks or months. The condition is common in developing countries as hygienic food is not given much importance by food handlers and cooks.

Lead the culprit: Lead poisoning or lead toxicity can occur and in an acute form. It causes behavioural problems, vomiting, loss of weight and abdominal pain.

Non-food eating: Pica, the habit of eating non-food substances by toddlers can result in severe pain in the abdomen. The child may consume soap, chalk, sand, leaves of plants or just about anything it can see and grasp.

Appendicitis: Abdominal pain in the right lower abdomen if moderate to severe should be viewed as appendicitis. The child must be brought to a hospital or polyclinic immediately to evaluate the appendix and prompt surgery to remove the inflamed appendix is advised at the earliest.

Only in boys: In young boys, pain in the lower abdomen may be due to testicular torsion in which the stalk connecting the testes to the pelvis rotates. This leads to hampered blood supply to the testes causing a significant amount of pain.

Traffic jam in intestine: Constipation is a common reason for pain in the abdomen so it is important for the doctor to take a history of when the child passes stools, how often and at what time of the day along with the details of his food and water intake. Often children consume less water and then get constipated or pass hard stools.

Mesenteric lymphadenitis: In this condition, the lymph nodes (which help the body fight infection) close to the intestine are inflamed. The abdominal pain is severe, more on the right side and fever, nausea, vomiting and malaise is also seen. The commonest reason for getting this condition is gastroenteritis or stomach flu. Mesenteric lymphadenitis is common in children and teenagers.

Source: Dr Nisreen Nakhoda, General Physician, mDhil.com

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