ABDOMINAL PAIN, CHRONIC
DESCRIPTIONChronic abdominal pain means recurrent, vague abdominal pain in a child over a period of days, weeks, or even months. This pain is frequently associated with headache, paleness, and tiredness. It is a frequent problem, sometimes estimated to periodically affect as many as one in ten children. Sometimes a specific treatable cause can be found. More often, it is hard to establish a specific medical or surgical diagnosis of the problem. Parents and friends frequently suspect that the child is faking the symptom. However, it is more likely that a child uses the symptom of abdominal pain to express troubled feelings. Parents should consider that the pain is very real and not "put on." Chronic abdominal pain is more likely to occur in intelligent, competitive, overachieving children of both sexes. It is not contagious or cancerous. Appropriate health care includes a doctor's care until the problem is resolved.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
Vague pain usually perceived to be located around the navel. Pain is a sensation that indicates an abnormality which might otherwise be overlooked. Because pain can be felt only by the patient, you and your child's physician learn of its features only through the child's description or your observation of the child's reactions.
Unknown. Possibly anxiety or tension.
Outside pressure on the child from any source.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEAvoid excessive pressure on the child when possible.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Diagnostic measures including urinalysis, blood counts, and stool exams.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSNone expected.
Don't discuss the illness with friends or neighbors in the presence of your child. You may thoughtlessly transfer your fears to your child.
Keep a weight chart. A steady weight gain is evidence of a healthy child.
MEDICATIONMedicines must be fitted to your child's own particular needs. Do not give any medicine (not even medicine you buy without prescription) without telling your doctor. If your doctor does prescribe drugs, carefully follow the instructions on the label.
Usually your doctor will not prescribe any medication unless a specific cause can be discovered.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Try to encourage your child to participate in normal activities, but avoid tension and too much excitement or stimulation. Children with recurrent abdominal pain are frequently intelligent, competitive, and apt to be overachievers.
DIET & FLUIDS
No change is necessary unless the situation changes dramatically. If mild, continuous pain becomes progressively worse, or if your child becomes incapacitated, then give nothing to eat or drink (particularly avoid laxatives) until your doctor re-examines the child and finds the cause.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Yes, if the child's condition and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child experiences any of the following:Painful or frequent urination.
Fever over 101 degrees.
Blood in bowel movements.
Black, tarry-appearing bowel movements.
Pain that interferes with sleep and normal activity or becomes incapacitating.