Abdominal Pain Pediatric Care Plan

By David Shafran, MD
Medically reviewed
December 27, 2020

Common Causes of Abdominal Pain

Stomach aches are among the most common reasons children see a doctor. They range from severe to mild, sudden (‘acute’) to prolonged (‘chronic’), and can be located throughout the abdomen, or focused in just one part of it. Let’s take a closer look at potential causes of each type of abdominal pain.

Common Causes of Mild, Acute (sudden) Abdominal Pain:

  • Gastroenteritis – an infection of the intestines that can cause vomiting and diarrhea
  • Gastritis – an inflammation of the stomach lining
  • Constipation 
  • Strep throat
  • Pneumonia 
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)

More Serious Causes of Acute Abdominal Pain:

  • Appendicitis 
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Gallstones 
  • Kidney stones
  • Pancreatitis
  • Ovarian or testicular torsion
  • Ectopic pregnancy

Common Causes of Chronic (Long Term) Abdominal Pain:

  • Constipation
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis (UC)
  • Celiac disease
  • Carbohydrate malabsorption
  • Chronic reflux (heartburn)
  • Functional abdominal pain – a category of stomach aches that is diagnosed only after more serious causes have been ruled out. (Examples of functional abdominal pain include Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Abdominal Migraines, and Functional Dyspepsia.)

Diagnosis of Abdominal Pain

Evaluation and diagnosis of abdominal pain depends primarily on its severity and duration. 

Sudden and acute abdominal pain should be evaluated in a hospital setting immediately, usually requiring one or more of the following:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Xray
  • Ultrasound or CT scan

Chronic or less severe abdominal pain can be evaluated in an outpatient setting and might require some of the following:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Xray
  • Ultrasound or CT scan

Lastly, if certain foods are suspected, you might be asked to keep a food diary to evaluate for a pattern.

Treatment of Abdominal Pain

For sudden, acute abdominal pain, treatment might include:

  • IV fluids
  • Pain medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Surgery 

For Chronic or Less Severe Abdominal Pain Treatment may Include:

  • Laxatives (in cases of constipation)
  • Dietary restrictions or modifications
  • Exercise
  • Rest
  • Stress reduction
  • Addressing underlying anxiety
  • Probiotics 
  • Other medications

Check in with K if…

  • You have general questions about your child’s condition
  • You want general followup for your child
  • You have questions about supportive care
  • Your child’s symptoms don’t go away after treatment, but are not alarming

See a doctor in person if…

  • The abdominal pain occurs suddenly or is severe
  • If your child is unable to eat or drink
  • If the pain interferes with your child’s daily activities 
  • The pain is accompanied by dark green vomit
  • The pain is associated with trauma
  • The  pain occurs during pregnancy or suspected pregnancy
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

David Shafran, MD

Dr. Shafran is a board-certified pediatrics physician. He joins K Health from the Cleveland Clinic, where he led a pediatrics practice and completed a fellowship in transplant ethics. He has completed multiple fellowships, including one in pediatric nephrology at Rainbow, Babies & Children's University Hospitals. He received his medical degree from the Sackler School of Medicine in Tel Aviv and completed his medical residency at the Jacobi Medical Center.