General Health & Wellness • Jul 05, 2011

When is it More than a Tummy Ache

     When is it more than a tummy ache? Complaints of abdominal pain are common in every household, doctor’s office, and emergency room around the world. This is because there are an incredible amount of causes of abdominal pain. From constipation to intestinal obstruction, appendicitis to indigestion; the list goes on and on. So, when is a tummy ache more than just that?

The following guidelines are a good place to start when trying to decide if a doctor’s visit is necessary:

Take your child to the nearest emergency room if he or she: 

 Has severe, debilitating abdominal pain
 Has moderate pain localized exclusively to your child’s right-lower quadrant
  Has blood in their urine 
  Is vomiting blood or bile
   Have Has or black-tar stools
   Is unable to keep any fluids down, or, for an infant, refuses to feed
   Has a tense, distended abdomen
   Has abdominal pain following a traumatic event, such as car or bicycle accident

Take your child to the doctor’s office if he or she:

 Has mild, cramping abdominal pain
 Has pain/vomiting/diarrhea lasting longer than 2-3 days
 Has chronic abdominal pain
 May be constipated
  Has lower abdominal pain associated with burning urination and increased frequency
 Is experiencing weight loss or if you have concerns about his/her appetite

Continue to monitor your child at home if he/she has: –

   Mild nausea/vomiting/diarrhea
  Occasional complaints of abdominal pain that does not seem to affect activity 

     These guidelines are a good point of reference for an otherwise healthy child. If your child has other medical problems, discuss signs and symptoms with your physician.

    Each child is different, and illness does not present the same way each time. Abdominal pain is so complex, that even physicians can have difficulty determining the cause initially. Frequently, follow-up examinations and close observation is required.

    If you are ever concerned about your child’s abdominal pain do not hesitate to take them to their physician. It is much better to take your child to the doctor and learn the cause is nothing serious, than stay at home and later learn it was serious. The best rule of thumb is to always err on the side of caution.

    Call our pediatric answer line for more information: 314.454.KIDS.


  1. my son has an appointment with a pediatric GI specialist at Baptist Hospital in May. He has had some fairly severe frequent digestion issues, along with weight gain and weight loss that is substantial for his size and age.

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