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Abdominal Pain in Children: Care Instructions

Picture of the abdominal regions in a child


Abdominal (belly) pain has many possible causes. Some are not serious and get better on their own in a few days. Others need more testing and treatment. If your child's belly pain continues or gets worse, your child may need more tests to find out what is wrong.

Most cases of belly pain in children are caused by minor problems, such as stomach flu, infection or constipation. Home treatment often is all that is needed to relieve them.

Your doctor may have recommended a follow-up visit in the next 8 to 12 hours. Do not ignore new symptoms, such as fever, nausea and vomiting, urination problems, or pain that gets worse. These may be signs of a more serious problem. If your child has belly pain and is very young or uses a different way to communicate (besides talking), they may show different signs such as:

  • Holding their knees close to their chest and not wanting to be moved.
  • Sleeping longer.
  • Changes to their breathing patterns.
  • Being less active and laying down more than usual.

The doctor has checked your child carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Make sure your child rests.
  • Give your child lots of fluids a little at a time. This is very important if your child is vomiting or has diarrhea. Give your child sips of water or drinks such as Pedialyte or Gastrolyte. These drinks contain a mix of salt, sugar, and minerals. You can buy them at drugstores or grocery stores. You can give these drinks or diluted apple juice as long as your child is throwing up or has diarrhea.
  • Start to offer small amounts of food when your child feels like eating.
  • Have your child take medicines exactly as directed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine.
  • Do not give your child aspirin, due to the risk of Reye syndrome. If you are giving your child ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve) for pain and they develop an upset stomach or become dehydrated, talk to your doctor.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child's stools are maroon or very bloody.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new belly pain or his or her pain gets worse.
  • Your child's pain becomes focused in one area of his or her belly.
  • Your child has a new or higher fever.
  • Your child's stools are black and look like tar or have streaks of blood.
  • Your child has new or worse diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Your child vomits blood or what looks like black coffee grounds.
  • Your child has symptoms of a urinary tract infection. These may include:
    • Pain when he or she urinates.
    • Urinating more often than usual.
    • Blood in his or her urine.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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