Abdominal Pain in Children: When to Take Them Seriously
Common ailments in the pediatric age group. There are various reasons for tummy pain and most of them are self-limiting. Diagnosing the cause is challenging as small children are unable to describe the kind of pain and location of discomfort.
Pain in the stomach may be caused by various medical conditions as well as those needing surgical intervention.
Sudden onset stomach pain without any associated vomiting may be caused by gastroenteritis, viral fever, mesenteric lymphadenopathy, constipation, colitis, worm infestation, urinary tract infections and so on. Most of these diseases are self-limiting and need symptomatic treatment. However, it is important to identify the children who have an unusual and more serious type of pain requiring immediate evaluation and intervention. When pain is localised to the right side of the abdomen and associated with fever and vomiting, immediate consultation with the pediatric surgeon is essential to rule out acute appendicitis, Meckel's diverticulitis, as delay in diagnosis and treatment can lead to rupture of the appendix and spreading of infection to entire tummy (known as peritonitis).
Small kids having intermittent abdominal pain associated with blood in stools need urgent evaluation for intussusception (small bowel slides into large bowel), midgut volvulus (twisting of the bowel). Timely intervention with surgery helps to prevent life-threatening complications.
Important associated symptoms where a child might require surgery are yellowish or greenish coloured vomiting, constipation or blood in stools, and abdominal distention. These are alarming and warrant an immediate consult with a pediatric surgeon.
Lower abdominal pain associated with swelling in the groin suggests obstructed hernias. Teenager girls with sudden onset lower abdominal pain and vomiting need evaluation of ovarian torsion. Similarly, testicular torsion presents in boys with sudden scrotal pain and swelling.
To summarise, most tummy pains are self-limiting and mild. If pain is severe, persistent or associated with the above-explained warning signs, you should immediately consult a pediatric surgeon.