What is recurrent abdominal pain?

Recurrent Abdominal Pain

Chronic abdominal pain: Overview

Chronic abdominal pain means you have belly pain that occurs a few times over a couple of months. Sometimes the pain is linked to eating certain foods or having a bowel movement. But most of the time the pain cannot be explained.

Your doctor may use the words "functional abdominal pain" to describe the problem. It can be hard to deal with pain when your doctor cannot find a cause, even after tests are done.

When the pain is very bad, it can keep you from doing your normal activities. Sometimes stress can make your pain worse. Even if you cannot make the pain go away, there are things you can do to make it a little easier to manage.

What happens when your child has chronic abdominal pain?

Some children with chronic abdominal pain feel better when they recognize their symptoms and how to deal with them. Other children may feel better but have other ongoing problems with their intestines or stomach. And some children will have ongoing episodes of chronic abdominal pain.

Having chronic abdominal pain does not increase the chance of the child having an ulcer or other intestinal problem as an adult. But any child complaining of chronic abdominal pain should be evaluated by a doctor.

What are the symptoms of chronic abdominal pain in children?

Symptoms of chronic abdominal pain are different for every child and may change with each episode. Symptoms may include:

  • Sharp or dull pain.
  • Severe pain that causes the child to look pale, become sweaty, or cry and bend over in pain.
  • Pain that lasts a few minutes or hours.
  • Pain in the belly button area or anywhere in the belly.
  • Pain that may or may not be related to eating.
  • Pain that occurs anytime of the day or night.
  • Abdominal pain that occurs with vomiting, headaches, or pain in the arms or legs.
  • Not being hungry like normal or skipping meals but usually without losing weight.

Chronic abdominal pain may get worse with stress, anger, or excitement.

How can you care for your child who has chronic abdominal pain?

A child who has chronic abdominal pain should eat regular meals, not skip any meals, and not overeat at any one meal. Different foods, such as spicy foods or dairy foods, may trigger an episode in some children. Your child should not eat any foods that cause abdominal pain.

Many children are able to manage their pain and keep doing normal activities. Be sure that your child has regular meal and snack times as well as a regular bedtime so your child gets enough sleep.

What is chronic abdominal pain in children?

Chronic abdominal pain with no cause occurs a few times over a couple of months. These episodes are often severe, and the child is not able to do their normal activities.

Chronic abdominal pain: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever and belly pain.
  • You have severe pain that is different from your usual belly pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your pattern of pain changes.
  • You have questions or concerns about your belly pain.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.