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Chronic Abdominal Pain in Children: Care Instructions


Chronic abdominal pain is belly pain that occurs a few times over a couple of months. Sometimes the pain is linked to foods your child eats. But most of the time the pain cannot be explained.

Sometimes the pain is so bad that your child cannot do their normal activities. Stress, anger, or excitement can make the pain worse. Your doctor may use the words "functional abdominal pain" to describe the problem.

It can be hard when your child is in pain and the doctor can find no cause, even when tests are done. Even if you cannot make the pain go away, there are some things you can do to help your child manage it.

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?

  • Keep your child doing normal activities as much as possible.
  • Be sure your child has regular meals and snack times.
  • Be sure your child has a regular bedtime so they get enough sleep.
  • Keep a symptom diary. This can help you see if there are events or emotions that make your child's pain worse. Write down what your child ate, drank, or felt before the pain began.
  • Help your child reduce stress. Breathing exercises and relaxation techniques can help.
  • Try cognitive behavioural therapy. You and your child can work with a counsellor to learn how to do this therapy. It can help your child cope with pain by changing the way they think. How your child thinks can affect their feelings.
  • Encourage your child to do something to take their mind off of the pain such as talking to a friend, reading a book, playing a video game, or watching a show. Using other options such as heat or massage can also help.
  • If your child is in a wheelchair and experiencing recurrent abdominal pain, here are some things you can try:
    • Allow your child some time out of their chair to move more freely.
    • Take note of where their seatbelt or harness is resting to see if it could be causing any pain.
    • A gentle abdominal massage may help to release any gas that has built up.
  • If your child is tube-fed, try venting their tube more frequently and giving small amounts of water through the tube.

When should you call for help?

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

  • Your child has a fever and belly pain.
  • Your child has severe pain that is different from your child's usual belly pain.

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

  • Your child's pattern of pain or discomfort changes.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's belly pain.

Where can you learn more?

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